Health care bill on life support after two more GOP defections - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Health care bill on life support after two more GOP defections

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Photo from NBC News. Photo from NBC News.

by LEIGH ANN CALDWELL

WASHINGTON — Two more Republican senators came out against the latest version of the GOP's health care bill Monday night, leaving party leaders short of a majority to pass it.

Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, announced on Twitter that they both would oppose the current bill, which was released just last week.

Moran and Lee follow two other GOP senators who have already said they wouldn't support the bill, Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Susan Collins, R-Maine. With no Democrats expected to vote for the GOP effort, Republicans need at least 50 of the 52 votes they have in the Senate to pass any bill.

“After conferring with trusted experts regarding the latest version of the Consumer Freedom Amendment, I have decided I cannot support the current version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act,” Lee said in a statement. “In addition to not repealing all of the Obamacare taxes, it doesn’t go far enough in lowering premiums for middle class families; nor does it create enough free space from the most costly Obamacare regulations.”

Moran issued this statement: “We should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy. Furthermore, if we leave the federal government in control of everyday healthcare decisions, it is more likely that our healthcare system will devolve into a single-payer system, which would require a massive federal spending increase. We must now start fresh with an open legislative process to develop innovative solutions that provide greater personal choice, protections for pre-existing conditions, increased access and lower overall costs for Kansans.”

The senators released their statements just as eight other lawmakers, including most members of leadership, left the White House, where they ate dinner with the president. Trump has been largely disengaged from the process in the Senate and his choice of dinner guests were members already supportive of the measure.

The president responded to the latest development just after 10:15 p.m. ET:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had expected to hold a vote on the bill this week but was forced to delay it after Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., underwent surgery for the removal of a blot clot above his left eye over the weekend. McCain is unable to return to Washington while he recovers and his vote would have been crucial before the latest defections.

The Better Care Reconciliation Act has hit numerous roadblocks since it was first unveiled more than a month ago. The first version fell short of the support needed to pass when at least ten GOP senators came out against it, forcing McConnell back to the drawing board to try and win the support of both moderate and conservative Republicans who opposed the measure for different reasons.

The second iteration, released last week, seemed to have more support. Only Paul and Collins opposed it at the outset, and others with concerns seemed open to ongoing discussions about the bill.

But the coalition of 50 began to crack Monday when Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., told reporters that he was concerned about McConnell's assurance to the centrists that Medicaid cuts set to go into effect in 2025 would never be realized.

"I did find the story about leader McConnell’s comments about Medicaid reforms just too far in the future probably never being enacted — I found those pretty troubling," Johnson said.

The delay due to McCain's medical emergency didn't help matters either as some worried that the delay would allow more time for those opposed to press their efforts forward. The measure only polls at around 15 percent support, according to public polling and Republican senate offices have been home to nearly daily protests by activists opposed to the Republican plan.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that Republicans should "start from scratch and work with Democrats" on a bill to fix the problems with Obamacare.

“This second failure of Trumpcare is proof positive that the core of this bill is unworkable," Schumer said in a statement.

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