Politics

Prospects Remain Grim for Senate GOP Health Care Bill

Republican senators across spectrum express concern over existing plan, push for slowdown

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price insisted Sunday that “there’s a misunderstanding about what the entire” GOP Senate’s plan is for health care reform. But Price was relatively isolated among Republicans on the Sunday show circuit in defending the current version of the Obamacare replacement bill, unveiled Thursday by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

After nearly a month and a half of secretive deliberations, Senate GOP leaders offered their version of a partial repeal and replace of Obamacare. On Sunday, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Nev.) joined five other Republican senators who have already vowed to oppose the bill in its current form.

“I think there’s a misunderstanding about what the entire plan is,” Price said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” And the fact of the matter is, the bill is part of the plan, and then the kinds of things that we’re doing through the Department of Health and Human Services add on to that.”

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“What I’m telling you is the system, the plan that we would put in place, would not allow individuals to fall through the cracks,” Price added. “We would not pull the rug out from under anybody. We would not have individuals lose coverage that they want for themselves and for their family. We want to make certain that health care is available to all Americans.”

But both conservative and moderate Republican senators expressed doubt over the plan — even as McConnell continues to push for a vote this week.

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“I’m not a ‘yes’ yet,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “It’s way more complex than simply ‘repeal and replace.’ That’s a fun little buzzword, but it’s just not accurate.”

“I have a hard time believing Wisconsin constituents or even myself will have enough time to properly evaluate this, for me to vote for a motion to proceed,” Johnson added. “So I’ve been encouraging leadership, the White House, anybody I can talk to for quite some time, let’s not rush this process. Let’s have the integrity to show the American people what it is, show them the truth — so we can actually argue against the rhetoric.”

Johnson said he resented the decision of Senate GOP leaders to keep the drafting process behind closed doors before suddenly unveiling the legislation and expecting a vote within a week’s time.

“So … my first point right now is, we don’t have enough information. I don’t have the feedback from constituencies who will not have had enough time to review the Senate bill. We should not be voting on this next week,” Johnson said. “So I understand without a good process, you’re not going to end up with a good product. And a process in terms of problem-solving starts with information. But that’s kind of foreign to Washington, D.C.”

“Washington, D.C., is an alternative universe, where people just talk about policies, void of facts, void of the types of information you really need to solve a problem,” Johnson continued. “But we don’t have the courage in Washington. We don’t have the honesty to talk about these things with real information, real facts, go through that problem-solving process, information, agree on achievable goals, then set the strategies, then pass the legislation.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), one of the most moderate-to-liberal members of the GOP caucus, expressed her concerns during an interview with ABC News’ “This Week” that the current draft seeks to defund abortion provider Planned Parenthood at least temporarily.

“Well, first, let me say that it makes absolutely no sense to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood. There already are long-standing restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion. So that’s not what this debate is about,” Collins said. “And Planned Parenthood is an important provider of health care services, including family planning and cancer screenings for millions of Americans, particularly women.”

Saying the Planned Parenthood issue is “one of many factors and a very important one that I will consider in casting my vote,” Collins added that she is also concerned about proposed cuts to Medicaid and the cost of insurance premiums and deductibles.

“So I’m going to look at the whole bill before making a decision,” she said. “It’s hard for me to see the bill passing this week. But that’s up to the majority leader. We could well be in all night, a couple of nights, working through what will be an open amendment process. And I think that — that at least is good. The process could have been a lot better.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) who has been calling repeatedly for a simple and complete repeal of Obamacare, complained that many of Obamacare’s most burdensome regulations remain in the Senate’s bill and continue the “death spiral.”

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“That is not anywhere close to repeal,” Paul said on “This Week,” saying that at this point in the process he is still a “no” vote. “But I could vote, if we get to impasse, if we go to a bill that is more repeal and less big government programs, yes, I’ll consider partial repeal … and I’m not voting for something that looks just like Obamacare and still doesn’t fix the fundamental flaw of Obamacare.”

Paul admitted that if the Republicans cannot get the 50 votes required for the tie-breaker and get to an impasse, he would vote for a repeal even if it wasn’t a “100 percent repeal.”

“So, for example, I’m for 100 percent repeal, that’s what I want. But if you offer me 90 percent repeal, I’d probably would vote it. I might vote for 80 percent repeal,” he said.

Noting that there hardly ever is consensus within any political party, Paul suggested that the GOP takes “25 ideas and keep narrowing it until we get 100 percent consensus.”

“But what if we keep whittling it back to things we have consensus for?” Paul said. “I will get to ‘yes’ if they change their approach. And will they change their approach if they don’t get 50? I think they ought to. Why don’t we whittle it down to what the whole caucus agrees on. I think there’s a bill that all 52 Republicans agree on if they keep narrowing the focus.”

The Kentucky senator even offered to work with the Democrats after instituting a partial repeal to address “the replace.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said during an interview with “This Week” that he believes the Republicans have a 50-50 chance of pushing their bill through and snatching enough “yes” votes.

“First Democrats, we are doing everything we can to fight this bill, because it’s so devastating for the middle class. I think they have at best a 50-50 chance of passing this bill,” he said, reaffirming his commitment to keeping Obamacare intact while attempting to make it “better.”

“But the bill is just devastating. And that’s what’s making it so hard for them to pass it,” Schumer added.

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