Health Care Bill Collapses

Health Care Bill Collapses

According to a front-page story in the July 18 Hartford Courant, “Two more Senate Republicans have declared their opposition to the latest plan to overhaul the nation’s healthcare system, potentially ending a months’ long effort to make good on a GOP promise that has defined the party for nearly a decade…”

Health Care Bill Collapses

Two More Republicans Announce Opposition; McConnell Concedes He Lacks Votes For Passage

By SEAN SULLIVAN and LENNY BERNSTEIN

Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Two more Senate Republicans have declared their opposition to the latest plan to overhaul the nation’s health care system, potentially ending a months' long effort to make good on a GOP promise that has defined the party for nearly a decade and been a top priority for President Donald Trump.

Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas issued statements declaring that they would not vote for the revamped measure. The sudden breaks by Lee, a staunch conservative, and Moran, an ally of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., rocked the GOP leadership and effectively closed what already had been an increasingly narrow path to passage for the bill.

They joined Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan Collins of Maine, who also oppose it. With just 52 seats, Republicans can afford to lose only two votes to pass their proposed rewrite of the Affordable Care Act. All 46 Democrats and two independents are expected to vote against it.

Democrats’ reaction was swift.

“We have a historic opportunity to come together on #healthcare if the GOP abandons its cruel, costly ACA repeal and destruction of Medicaid,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., tweeted.

That was followed by a tweet from Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.: “Think unthinkable: a world where health care isn’t just a political cudgel, where thru tough compromise both parties forge consensus.”

Republicans, who have made rallying cries against President Barack Obama’s 2010 health-care law a pillar of the party’s identity, may be forced to grapple with the law’s shift from a perennial GOP target to an accepted, even popular, provider of services and funding in many states, which could make further repeal revivals difficult.

Meanwhile, Trump and other Republicans will confront a Republican base that, despite fervent support for the president, still seeks a smaller federal government and fewer regulations.

All of these forces remained vexing factors Monday as senators bailed on the bill. And no evident solution was offered by the White House — which has been limited in its sale of the GOP plan — or from McConnell, for how to bring together a party in which moderates and conservatives are still deeply divided over the scope of federal health-care funding and regulations.

McConnell did announce late Monday that he plans to push for a vote in the coming days anyway, potentially setting up a showdown with conservatives who have pushed for a clean repeal bill.

“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,” Lee said in a statement.

Moran said the bill “fails to repeal the Affordable Care Act or address healthcare’s rising costs.”

The two senators timed the release of their statements and made clear that modest tinkering around the edges of the legislation drafted by McConnell would not be enough to meet their demands.

They joined two GOP colleagues in calling for a complete redrawing of the legislation that would take many months, short-circuiting McConnell’s wish to end the debate this month.

The news threw the effort to pass the legislation into turmoil, with additional Republicans weighing in on Twitter about a flawed process that must take a new direction. Trump tweeted that “Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina called for a “new approach” while Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina tweeted, “Time for full repeal.” White House aides, meanwhile, said they still plan to press ahead.

The setbacks appear to have left McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., with few good options. Conservatives have suggested moving a bill that would simply repeal the Affordable Care Act and set up a timeline of several years to figure out how to replace it, a politically risky move that also might lack support to pass.

Another move, which McConnell threatened recently, would be to work with Democrats to prop up the insurance exchange markets that have been imploding in some states — which probably would win passage but would infuriate the conservative base that has been calling for the end of the Affordable Care Act.

“Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful,” McConnell said in a statement released late Monday. He revealed plans to move forward in the coming days with a test vote on the legislation anyway, in some ways daring his Republican opponents to begin debate.

Democrats quickly jumped at the opportunity to declare the effort dead.

“This second failure of Trumpcare is proof positive that the core of this bill is unworkable,” said Minority Leader Charles Schumer, N.Y. “Rather than repeating the same failed, partisan process yet again, Republicans should start from scratch and work with Democrats on a bill that lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the markets and improves our health-care system.”

Republican leaders had returned to the Capitol on Monday still pledging to press ahead with plans to pass a far-reaching overhaul, but the day had begun with uncertainty as the health of Republican Sen. John McCain put the future of the flagging effort deeper in doubt.

In a speech on the Senate floor, McConnell said that he had spoken with McCain on Monday morning and that “he’ll be back with us soon.” The Arizonan is recovering from surgery to remove a blood clot above his left eye that involved opening his skull.

McConnell had delayed action on the health care bill until McCain’s return in hopes that he could be persuaded to vote yes. That hope faded after Lee’s and Moran’s announcements, however, with McCain issuing a statement from Arizona calling for a fresh, bipartisan start.

“One of the major problems with Obamacare was that it was written on a strict party-line basis and driven through Congress without a single Republican vote,” McCain said. “As this law continues to crumble in Arizona and states across the country, we must not repeat the original mistakes that led to Obamacare’s failure.”

In addition, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., hinted Monday that he might vote against advancing the measure to floor debate — departing from his posture last week.

McCain, 80, is awaiting results of tissue pathology reports “pending within the next several days,” the hospital treating him said in a statement over the weekend. He will be away from the Senate for at least the rest of the week. A McCain spokeswoman had no further update on his condition Monday.

Graham, perhaps McCain’s closest friend in the Senate, spoke to him by phone as he was walking to the Senate chamber for a vote Monday evening. The two had an animated conversation, and Graham said McCain was “dying to get back.”

“They were doing a routine checkup and they found the spot and it looks like everything is going to be A-OK,” Graham said. He said McCain’s doctors “don’t want him to fly for a week, adding, “I think he would walk back if they would let him.”