Lawmakers should work through the August recess if they cannot pass a partial repeal of Obamacare before then, Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) said Friday.
Appearing on “The Laura Ingraham Show,” Perdue said there is more than health care on a legislative agenda that includes tax reform, a looming vote on raising the debt ceiling, and the annual spending bills for the fiscal year that starts October 1.
“We’ve got so much to do,” he said. “We need to stay here in August and not go home and have that work period back in the state.”
Nine other Republican senators on Friday joined Perdue in his call, according to a news release from his office.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pulled the upper chamber’s version of the health care bill after it became clear that it could not pass. Perdue said he shares the concerns of conservatives who believe the plan does not go far enough in repealing the insurance regulations that drive up the cost of health care. But he argued that abandoning the effort is not an option.
“We’re so close,” he said. “You know, I’m not real happy with everything that we’re doing. But the thing right now is, if we don’t do something, there’ll be a lot of people hurt because of this collapsing structure that we have in Obamacare.”
The debate is occurring against the backdrop of an individual insurance market that is losing carriers on a regular basis. Soon, 40 percent of U.S. counties may have no more than one choice on the online exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act.
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On Thursday, Premier Health Plan became the latest casualty. The company announced that it is withdrawing from Ohio by January 1 next year, affecting nine counties in the southwest part of the state. Several weeks ago, Anthem said it would pull out of the state.
“Obamacare’s collapsing under its own weight,” Perdue said. “I mean, this is not something that will happen in the future. We’re watching it right now.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) suggested Thursday on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that Republicans should try to break the impasse within their caucus by splitting the bill in two — a clean repeal in one and another that would allow moderates and Democrats to add funding for Medicaid and subsidies to help lower-income people buy insurance.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) told the Fox Business Network’s “Varney & Co.” on Friday that he was open to that approach but questioned how much support it would have.
“I don’t think we’d get the 50 votes if that were on the floor,” he said.
Perdue said President Donald Trump has been helpful in trying to guide the Senate to action without dictating specifics. He described a recent meeting he participated in with other senators at the White House.
“He spoke for about five or 10 minutes and then he listened for the next hour and a half,” he said. “And his message is, ‘Guys, it’s easy to sit back and say no. Everybody in this room has a self-interest reason why they can’t vote for any bill on health care. It’s not gonna be perfect. But here’s the opportunity’ … He reminded us of what’s at stake here. We need to learn how to govern.”
Trump told senators that it would be disastrous to fail, Perdue said.
“We can’t just walk away and say, ‘no,'” he said. “And so I think everybody in that room heard that message.”