US Senate Republicans wasted no time on Friday showing they have little use for the US House of Representatives bill to repeal and replace former US president Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act amid fears among Americans that people already sick would not be able to get affordable insurance.
“I’m going to read the House bill, find out what it costs and where I find good ideas there, why we’ll borrow them. But basically we’re writing our own bill,” US Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, said in an interview.
“At this point, there seem to be more questions than answers about its consequences,” said Senator Susan Collins, a Republican, whose vote might prove one of the hardest to get for US President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“A bill — finalized yesterday, has not been scored, amendments not allowed, and 3 hours final debate — should be viewed with caution,” Senator Lindsey Graham said on Twitter.
The outspoken and immediate skepticism pointed to a long road ahead in the Senate, and for a president who has already expressed disappointment in the US Congress’ slow-moving ways, more frustration seemed assured.
“I don’t think anyone in the Senate is going to be bullied into artificial benchmarks or timelines,” said Josh Holmes, a Republican consultant and former chief of staff to McConnell. “It will be a very different process that will look very different from the one that we just saw unfolding in the House.”
McConnell plans to move forward under special procedures that allow legislation to pass with a simple majority vote, instead of the 60 usually required for major bills in the Senate.
That means he would only need Republican votes, which is all he can rely on, as Democrats are refusing to participate in dismantling Obama’s law. However, under complicated Senate rules, it also limits what can go into the legislation.
With only a slim 52-48 majority, McConnell can lose only two senators from his sometimes fractious caucus.
Senators have established a working group of about a dozen lawmakers to examine how to craft the Senate’s health bill.
The working group drew immediate criticism from Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, who said on Twitter: “Convening a group of men behind closed doors to scheme how to make care worse for women is as gutless as it gets, @SenateGOP.”
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