Par­tial re­peal is re­jected

In early-morn­ing vote, Mc­Cain, Murkowski, Collins op­pose a “skinny” ver­sion of the bill.

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Juliet Eilperin, Kelsey Snell and Sean Sul­li­van

WASH­ING­TON» The Se­nate re­jected the “skinny re­peal” health care leg­is­la­tion early Fri­day morn­ing, leav­ing it un­clear how Repub­li­cans will pro­ceed in their years-long ef­fort to over­haul Oba­macare.

The leg­is­la­tion would have elim­i­nated en­force­ment of the 2010 law’s re­quire­ment that Amer­i­cans ob­tain in­sur­ance or pay a tax penalty, and sus­pended for eight years en­forc­ing the man­date that com­pa­nies em­ploy­ing 50 or more work­ers pro­vide cov­er­age.

The bill, which was re­jected less than three hours af­ter be­ing in­tro­duced, would have made other changes in­clud­ing elim­i­nat­ing fund­ing for pre­ven­tive health care, pro­hibit­ing Med­i­caid ben­e­fi­cia­ries from be­ing re­im­bursed for Planned Par­ent­hood ser­vices for one year, and in­creas­ing the limit on con­tri­bu­tions to tax-ex­empt health sav­ings ac­counts for three years.

Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors John Mc­Cain of Ari­zona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Su­san Collins of Maine vote against the skinny re­peal.

The ex­pected vote came af­ter House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., pro­vided as­sur­ances that he was will­ing to use the pro­posal as a

ba­sis for ne­go­ti­at­ing a broader roll­back of the law, and would not move to quickly ap­prove the bill in its cur­rent form.

Ryan made the prom­ise af­ter three Repub­li­can sen­a­tors — Lind­sey Gra­ham of South Carolina, Mc­Cain and Ron John­son of Wis­con­sin — threat­ened to sink the bill if they did not get a guar­an­tee that any bill passed by the Se­nate this week would lead to con­fer­ence ne­go­ti­a­tions with the House rather than a straight up-or-down vote.

The tense ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the two cham­bers high­lighted the ex­tent to which Repub­li­cans could not reach a con­sen­sus on how to re­write Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s 2010 health-care law, and the de­gree to which Repub­li­cans are re­peat­ing many of the same back­room ma­neu­vers they crit­i­cized Democrats for us­ing seven years ago to ap­prove the ACA.

Democrats coun­tered that Repub­li­cans were push­ing through a com­pletely par­ti­san bill in the same man­ner they did in 2010. “But you’re re­peat­ing what you claim are the same mis­takes,” Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said.

Repub­li­cans ear­lier de­feated a mo­tion of­fered by Sen. Patty Mur­ray, D-Wash., to send the bill back to com­mit­tee for fur­ther con­sid­er­a­tion.

And while GOP sen­a­tors in­sisted the bill they were con­sid­er­ing would not make it into law with­out fur­ther changes, if en­acted it would have made sweep­ing changes to health cov­er­age as well as med­i­cal treat­ment in the United States.

Af­ter weeks of se­cre­tive ne­go­ti­a­tions, Mc­Connell un­veiled his draft of the “skinny re­peal” only a cou­ple of hours be­fore the cliffhanger vote early Fri­day.

Shortly af­ter it was in­tro­duced, the Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice is­sued an es­ti­mate find­ing that 16 mil­lion peo­ple would lose cov­er­age and that pre­mi­ums would rise about 20 per­cent a year if Repub­li­cans en­acted the pared-down bill.

Sara Rosen­baum, a health law and pol­icy pro­fes­sor at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity, said the bill would have made “enor­mous” changes to pri­vate and pub­lic in­sur­ance.

Trans­lat­ing their pledge to re­peal what they de­ri­sively call Oba­macare into a law has proved em­bar­rass­ingly dif­fi­cult for Repub­li­cans.

First, the House took an ex­tra six weeks to pass its ver­sion of the bill in early May. Most Repub­li­cans agreed that the mea­sure was flawed — Trump later called it “mean” for how it would deny in­sur­ance to 23 mil­lion peo­ple — and hoped that the Se­nate would craft a bet­ter bill.

But Mc­Connell’s closed­door ne­go­ti­a­tions ended in grid­lock, leav­ing him to pull to­gether this “skinny” re­peal of the ACA, just to keep alive ne­go­ti­a­tions with the House to come up with a dif­fer­ent plan later this sum­mer.

“I’m not go­ing to tell peo­ple back in South Carolina that this prod­uct ac­tu­ally re­places Oba­macare, be­cause it does not; it is a fraud,” Gra­ham said at a Thurs­day evening news con­fer­ence with Mc­Cain and John­son at his side.

Mc­Cain, who was di­ag­nosed with brain can­cer last week and re­turned this week call­ing for a bi­par­ti­san ap­proach, was the crit­i­cal vote on Mc­Connell’s “skinny” pro­posal, which had no Demo­cratic sup­port.

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