Republicans turn against Trump’s healthcare plan
Democrats call for new approach on ‘unworkable’ bill
TWO more US Republican senators announced their opposition on Monday to their party’s efforts to revamp Obamacare, derailing the controversial legislation in its current form and potentially dealing a monumental setback to President Donald Trump.
Republican leaders are desperate for a major legislative victory this year – and keen to fulfil Trump’s campaign pledge to dismantle the 2010 healthcare reforms of his predecessor Barack Obama, formally called the Affordable Care Act. But they had no votes to spare.
Republicans control 52 of the chamber’s 100 seats. Democrats are united against the controversial legislation, while Republicans Susan Collins and Rand Paul declared their opposition last week.
So when Senate conservatives Mike Lee and Jerry Moran announced late Monday they could not support the bill, the news sent shockwaves across Washington.
“We should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy,” Moran – who faced considerable opposition at home in Kansas to the measure – said in a statement, adding that the new bill “fails to repeal the Affordable Care Act or address healthcare’s rising costs”.
For Lee, “in addition to not repealing all of the Obamacare taxes, it doesn’t go far enough in lowering premiums for middleclass families; nor does it create enough free space from the most costly Obamacare regulations”.
Their defections mean that the bill has no chance of even getting a vote on the Senate floor unless Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decides to make significant changes to woo skeptics back into the fold.
“Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now and work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!” Trump tweeted after Lee and Moran made their opposition known.
In a statement McConnell acknowledged “regretfully” that his effort had failed. But he wasn’t giving up.
“So, in the coming days, the Senate will vote to take up ... a repeal of Obamacare with a two-year delay to provide for a stable transition period,” he said, without setting a date.
“Inaction is not an option,” added a White House spokesperson, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We look forward to Congress continuing to work toward a bill the president can sign to end the Obamacare nightmare.”
Over the weekend, McConnell delayed a vote to proceed on the bill, after Senator John McCain, 80, underwent surgery to remove a blood clot above his eye and said he would recuperate at home in Arizona for at least a week.
But McCain’s absence is now a moot point.
Several Republicans had already expressed concern that the new bill could slash funding for Medicaid, the health insurance programme for the poor and the disabled.
The new bill would gradually roll back the programme, a move that some Republicans warn could lead to millions losing coverage.
The latest defections also show that conservatives are frustrated that the new bill does not repeal the Obamacare taxes. Democratic reaction was swift. This failure is proof “that the core of this bill is unworkable”, said top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer.
Republicans should instead “start from scratch and work with Democrats on a bill that lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the markets and improves our healthcare system”.
Republican leaders are eager to notch a major victory for Trump in Congress as he nears the six-month mark of his presidency.— AFP