No Se­nate Repub­li­can con­sen­sus for ‘re­peal, re­place’ health care bill

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY DAVID SHERFIN­SKI

Repub­li­can sen­a­tors fled Wash­ing­ton on Thurs­day with­out a clear res­o­lu­tion on health care, leav­ing them to face vot­ers back home af­ter hav­ing failed to make their own self­im­posed dead­line for re­peal­ing Oba­macare.

Con­ser­va­tives and mod­er­ates bat­ted around ideas for changes to GOP lead­ers’ leg­is­la­tion, in­clud­ing $45 bil­lion in new funds to com­bat the opi­oid epi­demic, but hadn’t fi­nal­ized a deal, with hold­outs wait­ing for more sweet­en­ers.

“I’m not there yet — I know that,” said Sen. Shel­ley Moore Capito of West Vir­ginia, one of the Repub­li­cans who had pushed for more anti-opi­oid fund­ing.

GOP lead­ers had hoped for a vote this week but shelved those plans af­ter re­al­iz­ing they were well short of the nec­es­sary votes. They then said they wanted to re­work the bill and have an agree­ment done by Fri­day, with a vote in early July.

But find­ing a deal to woo enough hold­outs with­out alien­at­ing oth­ers has proved elu­sive.

“I ex­pect we will re­visit the Bet­ter Care Act when we come back for the July work pe­riod,” Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Whip John Cornyn said in a floor speech Thurs­day af­ter­noon. “I re­main hope­ful and op­ti­mistic be­cause do­ing noth­ing is not an op­tion.”

Sen­a­tors were weigh­ing a pro­posal that would keep Oba­macare’s 3.8 per­cent in­vest­ment tax on wealth­ier in­di­vid­u­als, which could free up $172 bil­lion else­where to head off ris­ing pre­mi­ums or help peo­ple in dan­ger of los­ing cov­er­age.

But that idea has run into op­po­si­tion from con­ser­va­tives, who want to re­peal as many of Oba­macare’s taxes and reg­u­la­tions as pos­si­ble.

“I ex­pect that we’ll be re­peal­ing all of the taxes,” said Sen. Pat Toomey, of Penn­syl­va­nia.

An­other idea be­ing pushed by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, which has at­tracted sup­port from con­ser­va­tives, would al­low in­sur­ers who sell Oba­macare-com­pli­ant plans to also of­fer non­com­pli­ant plans that would be cheaper for con­sumers.

“There was a good con­ver­sa­tion about that … in terms of how to make it work,” said Sen. John Thune, chair­man of the Se­nate Repub­li­can Con­fer­ence.

Still, mod­er­ates could balk at any pro­posal that risks in­creas­ing the num­ber of plans on the mar­ket­place that don’t pro­vide cov­er­age for pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions or “es­sen­tial” ben­e­fits un­der Oba­macare, like ma­ter­nity care.

The Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice also re­leased an up­dated anal­y­sis of Repub­li­cans’ bill on Thurs­day that said Med­i­caid spend­ing would drop by 35 per­cent over 20 years com­pared to its base­line bud­get.

That score could cause angst for mod­er­ates like Sen. Su­san Collins of Maine, for whom con­tin­ued Med­i­caid fund­ing is im­por­tant.

Democrats, who have said they will not help the GOP re­peal Oba­macare, quickly seized on the new score.

“The Se­nate ver­sion of Trump­care is even worse than we thought,” said Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Demo­crat.

What­ever the Se­nate passes also has to go back through the House, which passed its own Oba­macare re­peal bill ear­lier this year on a nar­row 217-213 vote.

But mem­bers were un­clear on whether there would be some­thing to run by the score­keep­ers be­fore the end of the week.

Asked about get­ting a deal by Fri­day, Sen. John Bar­rasso of Wy­oming said: “Well, we’re not go­ing to vote un­til we get back [in] from the Fourth of July re­cess.”

“I have no idea,” Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota said Thurs­day af­ter­noon when asked if they would get some­thing to the CBO on Fri­day. “We’re still work­ing on it.”

But ear­lier in the day, Sen. Or­rin Hatch of Utah had ex­pressed con­fi­dence in Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mc­Connell, call­ing him a “very good leader” who would move them in the “proper di­rec­tion.”

“We’ll have to see. It’s never over ’til it’s

ASSOCIATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

Mario Hen­der­son leads chants of “save Med­i­caid,” in a protest in Wash­ing­ton D.C., Thurs­day. Med­i­caid is one of the ma­jor stick­ing points in the Se­nate’s health care bill. Sen. Su­san Collins says Med­i­caid fund­ing is im­por­tant for her state. There is no con­sen­sus yet among the sen­a­tors.

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