Hostile Reaction Foretells Uphill Climb for GOP Health Bill

Several conservative senators, activists quick to oppose Senate Obamacare replacement, others lukewarm

The long-awaited Senate proposal to replace Obamacare drew rebukes Thursday, ranging from criticism of the process that produced it to complaints that it would fail to reduce health care costs.

And that was just the Republican reaction.

It is a sign that shepherding the Senate health bill will be anything but smooth sailing for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has little margin for error since his party can afford to lose only two votes.

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McConnell touted the bill’s benefits on the Senate floor. He said it would give more flexibility to states, expand health savings accounts, roll back taxes imposed by the Affordable Care Act, and make insurance more affordable.

McConnell promised that there would be ample opportunity for senators to debate the bill and offer amendments. Senate Democrats, he said, could decide whether to help fix Obamacare’s deficiencies or allow people to continue to be hurt by spiraling premiums.

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“Either way, it’s time to act, because Obamacare is a direct attack on the middle class, and American families deserve better than its failing status quo,” he said.

But Democrats appear to be the least of McConnell’s concerns. Four senators — Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) — put out a joint statement saying they cannot support the bill in its current form.

“There are provisions in this draft that represent an improvement to our current health care system, but it does not appear this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise that we made to Americans: to repeal Obamacare and lower their health care costs,” they stated.

Cruz told reporters that the American people want full repeal.

“The current draft doesn’t get the job done,” he said. “But I believe we can get to ‘yes.'”

Christopher Holt, director of health care policy at the conservative-leaning American Action Forum, said it is too soon to know how the debate will play out. He said Senate leaders can win votes through the amendment process. And he said some House members may go along with provisions they don’t like once they see what happens in the Senate.

“They promised us repeal. This is not repeal. They amended Obamacare.”

“If you hear today that three or four senators say they are not sure they can support this, I don’t think that means anything, because they are going to be making adjustments over the next week,” he said. “What people are willing to swallow can change.”

But the bill drew potshots from the other end of the ideological spectrum in the Republican Party as well.

Aides to Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) released a statement saying that the moderate senator “has a number of concerns and will be particularly interested in examining the forthcoming CBO [Congressional Budget Office] analysis on the impact on insurance coverage, the effect on insurance premiums, and the changes in the Medicaid program.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), another moderate, complained that a handful of Republican leaders wrote the draft behind closed doors. “I just asked Lisa Murkowski if she’s seen any bill text this morning. ‘I am not a reporter, and I am not a lobbyist, so I’ve seen nothing,'” Murkowski responded, as Independent Journal Review reporter Haley Byrd tweeted.

Conservative activists also panned the product.

“They promised us repeal,” said Jason Pye, a spokesman for FreedomWorks. “This is not repeal. They amended Obamacare.”

Pye said nearly every Republican candidate has promised for seven years to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He said the Senate bill does little to reduce the cost of health care and instead moves around insurance subsidies.

“I’m worried we’ve rearranged the deck chairs on the Titanic,” he said. (go to page 2 to continue reading)[lz_pagination]

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