Repub­li­cans set new dead­line to vote on Oba­macare re­peal

Schumer: Trump needs Democrats in on dis­cus­sions

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

Se­nate Repub­li­can lead­ers set a new Fri­day dead­line for get­ting agree­ment among them­selves on an Oba­macare re­peal — though they ac­knowl­edged they’re strug­gling to find ideas that can bridge the gap be­tween con­ser­va­tives on one side who want to go fur­ther in re­peal and mod­er­ates who say the GOP is al­ready go­ing too far.

Sen. John Cornyn, the Se­nate’s No. 2 Repub­li­can, said Wed­nes­day that they want to have a new bill by the end of this week so they can get it to con­gres­sional score­keep­ers for re­view while Congress is gone for a July Fourth va­ca­tion next week.

Repub­li­can lead­ers had orig­i­nally hoped to be vot­ing this week on their bill, but shelved those plans af­ter re­al­iz­ing they were far from the 50 votes needed to pass it.

Things are “all up in the air un­til we can find a way to build con­sen­sus,” said Mr. Cornyn, Texas Repub­li­can.

Find­ing that con­sen­sus is prov­ing ex­cep­tion­ally dif­fi­cult. De­spite hav­ing seven years to work up an al­ter­na­tive, the GOP is still stuck on ob­jec­tions both big and small.

Sen. John McCain of Ari­zona said Repub­li­cans could co­a­lesce around a plan by Fri­day if “pigs could fly.”

Con­ser­va­tive hold­outs like Sen. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky say the leg­is­la­tion leaves too much of Oba­macare’s frame­work in place, vi­o­lat­ing the pledge Repub­li­cans made to vot­ers to root out the 2010 law. More mod­er­ate mem­bers like Sen. Su­san M. Collins of Maine, mean­while, point to cal­cu­la­tions that show 22 mil­lion fewer peo­ple will hold in­sur­ance in a decade, par­tic­u­larly be­cause of $772 bil­lion in lower pro­jected Med­i­caid spend­ing.

Nine GOP sen­a­tors have al­ready said they can’t sup­port the cur­rent bill, and Repub­li­cans can only af­ford two de­fec­tions to pass the leg­is­la­tion un­der a fast­track process to get around a pos­si­ble Demo­cratic fil­i­buster.

House Repub­li­cans passed their own bill ear­lier this year on a 217-213 vote, and any­thing the Se­nate passes would also have to go back through the lower cham­ber.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a con­ser­va­tive who has been deeply in­volved in the on­go­ing dis­cus­sions, said no­body can get 100 per­cent of what they want if Repub­li­cans are go­ing to get some­thing passed.

“We are en­gaged in very real con­ver­sa­tions where ev­ery­body — from the most con­ser­va­tive mem­bers to the most mod­er­ate mem­bers — rec­og­nize that we’re go­ing to have to give some,” said Mr. Cruz.

The 2016 pres­i­den­tial can­di­date is push­ing a pro­vi­sion that says if an in­sur­ance com­pany sells at least one plan that’s Oba­macare-com­pli­ant in a given state, that com­pany can sell other non­com­pli­ant plans as well.

“That would have the ef­fect of sig­nif­i­cantly re­duc­ing pre­mi­ums and en­abling peo­ple to pur­chase health in­sur­ance they can af­ford,” Mr. Cruz said.

Other law­mak­ers have sug­gested adding back in more money for Med­i­caid, while sen­a­tors from Rust Belt states have said they want to see more fund­ing to com­bat opi­oid ad­dic­tion, say­ing the Med­i­caid cuts will dev­as­tate ex­ist­ing treat­ment pro­grams.

Sen. Mike Rounds, South Dakota Repub­li­can, floated an­other idea on Wed­nes­day to main­tain Oba­macare’s 3.8 per­cent tax on in­vest­ments claimed by wealth­ier in­di­vid­u­als, say­ing it would

raise $172 bil­lion that could be used to im­prove the GOP bill.

“I think we ought to take a look at the in­vest­ment tax that’s in the sys­tem now, and whether or not it would be ap­pro­pri­ate to al­low that tax to re­main so that we can af­ford to pay for some of these ad­di­tional costs that have been im­posed by Oba­macare,” Mr. Rounds said.

But con­ser­va­tives, who want to re­peal as many of the law’s taxes and reg­u­la­tions as pos­si­ble, would likely balk at

such an idea.

“We’re con­tin­u­ing to work to get 50 votes,” Sen. John Bar­rasso of Wy­oming, who chairs the Se­nate Repub­li­can Pol­icy Com­mit­tee, said when asked about the pos­si­bil­ity of keep­ing the in­vest­ment tax.

Democrats have re­fused to take part in writ­ing a bill, say­ing they won’t step for­ward un­til Repub­li­cans em­brace Oba­macare it­self.

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer also called on Pres­i­dent Trump

to host a dis­cus­sion on the sub­ject with all 100 sen­a­tors af­ter Mr. Trump held a ses­sion Tues­day with GOP mem­bers only.

“We Democrats are gen­uinely in­ter­ested in find­ing a place where our two par­ties can come to­gether on health care,” said Mr. Schumer, New York Demo­crat.

Mr. Trump said he’d have to find out if Mr. Schumer is se­ri­ous.

“He’s done a lot of talk­ing — bad talk­ing — and he just doesn’t seem like a se­ri­ous per­son,” the pres­i­dent said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Whip John Cornyn said Repub­li­cans hope to have a new bill draft for an Oba­macare re­peal ef­fort by the week’s end, be­fore Congress de­parts for July 4 va­ca­tion. Even with­out the Democrats, the GOP still lacks enough votes.

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