Even as GOP leaders declare they have the votes necessary to pass the American Health Care Act during its big showdown in the House Thursday, the bill still appears to face long odds in the U.S. Senate.
“It’s fixable, but it’s going to take a lot of work,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a leading critic of the bill, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And we need to roll up our sleeves and fix those problems rather than trying to rush to some arbitrary deadline.”
“This is not a bill I could support in its current form … It really misses the mark.”
Winning over conservative objectors like Cotton will be key for GOP leaders, who can only afford two defections in the Senate. Noting in particular that he doesn’t think the legislation will bring down premiums far enough, Cotton told “State of the Union” host Jake Tapper the legislation as it stands now will not help his constituents. Cotton also lamented that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price succeeded in crafting a far better health care proposal when he still served in the House.
“I served with Tom Price in the House of Representatives and consider him a good friend,” Cotton said. “He had legislation as a congressman that I think is a lot better than the House bill currently under consideration.”
Although several members of the House Freedom Caucus remained opposed to the bill, Ryan insisted he has enough votes to pass it after a deal was struck with 12 conservative members to amend the legislation and win their support Friday.
“I feel very good about it, actually,” Ryan said of getting the necessary votes on “Fox News Sunday.” He can only lose 21 GOP votes. “I feel it’s exactly where we want to be.”
“The reason I feel so good about this is because the president has become a great closer,” Ryan added. “He’s the one who has helped negotiate changes to this bill with members from all over our caucus.”
But even if the bill skates through the House and arrives at the Senate, there are no guarantees it will pass.
Republicans hold a narrow 52-48 balance in the Senate and the bill, being passed through the process known as reconciliation, can only survive two “no” votes from GOP senators.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Sunday on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that he would not vote for the bill in its current form — largely because it wouldn’t lower premiums enough.
“My biggest concern with the House bill is it doesn’t lower premiums … And [the Congressional Budget Office] in fact projected that in the first two years, premiums would rise 10 to 20 percent,” Cruz said. “I cannot vote for any bill that keeps premiums rising.”
“I do not believe it will pass the Senate,” Cruz added. “I’ve got to tell you, if Republicans hold a big press conference and pat ourselves on the back that we’ve repealed Obamacare and everyone’s premiums keep going up, people will be ready to tar and feather us in the streets … and quite rightly.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) insisted Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week” that he will not vote for this bill because “none of us ran on this plan.”
“I don’t believe so,” Paul said when asked if he thought the bill would pass. “I think there’s enough conservatives that do not want ‘Obamacare Lite.'”
Noting the GOP House leadership’s bill fails to fulfill the complete “repeal and replace” promise by keeping certain components of Obamacare fully or partially intact, Paul said, “We never ran on making the entitlement subsidies permanent.”
“This is the biggest political mistake of Republicans not thinking about how this is going look,” Paul added. “They call it ‘repeal and replace’ when it doesn’t fix the problems and … they’re going to own it.”
Republicans from the moderate wing of the party have also expressed skepticism with the current form of the bill.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has said she would not vote for the bill unless it included additional changes to better aid older Americans and provide coverage to more Americans than the AHCA currently offers.
“This is not a bill I could support in its current form,” Collins told the Portland Press Herald. “It really misses the mark.”
Currently, at least four conservative GOP senators and two GOP moderates are considered “no” votes on the bill.
Paul noted that he even “passed out” copies of Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal,” to House Freedom Caucus members last week because “we need to learn from the master.”
“And let’s make sure that we increase our leverage by holding the line,” Paul said.