US Senate Republicans skeptical about a Republican health overhaul bill are expressing some doubt about holding a vote this week as they await a key analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
US President Donald Trump, making a final push to fulfill a key campaign promise, insists Republicans are not “that far off” and signaled last-minute changes are coming to win votes.
“We have a very good plan,” Trump said in an interview aired on Sunday.
Referring to Republican senators opposed to the bill, he said: “They want to get some points, I think they’ll get some points.”
So far, five Republican senators are expressing opposition to the Senate Republican plan that would scuttle much of former US president Barack Obama’s health law. That is more than enough to torpedo the measure developed in private by US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, and deliver a bitter defeat for the US president.
The holdouts are expressing willingness to negotiate, but many of them are pushing revisions that could risk alienating moderate Republicans in the process.
US Senator Susan Collins, a Republican, said seven to eight additional senators, including herself, were troubled by provisions in the Senate bill that she believes could cut Medicaid for the poor even more than the US House of Representatives version.
Collins, who also opposes proposed cuts to Planned Parenthood, said she was awaiting the CBO analysis before taking a final position.
However, she said it will be “extremely difficult” for the White House to be able to find a narrow path to attract both conservatives and moderates.
The CBO cost estimate, including an analysis on the number of people likely to be covered, was expected to be released yesterday.
“It’s hard for me to see the bill passing this week,” Collins said.
US Senator Ron Johnson, also a Republican and one of the five senators opposing the bill, said he also wants to review the CBO score.
“I would like to delay,” he said.
“These bills aren’t going to fix the problem. They’re not addressing the root cause,” he said, referring to rising health care costs. “They’re doing the same old Washington thing, throwing more money at the problem.”
In the broadcast interview, Trump did not indicate what types of changes to the Senate bill might be in store, but affirmed that he had described a House-passed bill as “mean.”
“I want to see a bill with heart,” he said, confirming a switch from his laudatory statements about the House bill at a Rose Garden ceremony with House Republican leaders last month. “Healthcare’s a very complicated subject from the standpoint that you move it this way, and this group doesn’t like it ... and honestly, nobody can be totally happy,” Trump said.
McConnell has said he is willing to make changes to win support and plenty of backroom bargaining is expected in the week ahead.
He is seeking to push a final package through the Senate before the July 4 recess.
Addressing reporters on Sunday, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican said passing a health care bill will not get any easier if Republican leaders delay a Senate vote on the Republican healthcare plan.
US Senator John Cornyn said there is “a sense of urgency” to push forward, but acknowledged the outcome is “going to be close.”
He told reporters at a private gathering hosted by the libertarian Koch brothers in Colorado that Trump will be “important” in securing the final votes.
“We’re trying to hold him back a little bit,” Cornyn said.
The Senate bill resembles legislation the House approved last month.
A CBO analysis of the House measure predicts an additional 23 million people over the next decade would have no healthcare coverage and polling shows only about one in four Americans views the House bill favorably.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats have been clear they would cooperate with Republicans if they agree to drop a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and instead work to improve it.
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