Two more Republican senators announce opposition to healthcare bill, dooming current GOP plan – Los Angeles Times
With all Senate Democrats opposed, the “no” votes were enough to kill the current measure.
It had long been unclear whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be able to marshal the 50 votes needed from his 52-seat majority. But the abrupt failure of the GOP measure marked another embarrassing defeat in the years-long effort by Republicans to repeal the healthcare law, also known as Obamacare.
With the failure of the repeal-and-replace legislation, McConnell said late Monday that he will instead try to hold a vote in the coming days on a repeal-only bill, with a two-year delay to give Congress time to pass a replacement healthcare law.
Prospects for such a bill remain unclear since it could leave millions of Americans without coverage and wreak havoc on the insurance industry.
In a tweet Monday, President Trump voiced support for repeal-only. “Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!,” he wrote.
Conservative senators complained the bill McConnell put forward last week, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, did not go far enough in gutting Obamacare and centrists were worried about its steep cuts to Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor.
Before Monday’s defections, two other Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky, had already have said they would vote against the legislation.
“We should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy,” Moran said in a statement Monday. “We must now start fresh.”
Lee wanted tougher rollbacks of Obamacare mandates and said that he opposed the bill because it would not lower costs for healthy Americans whose insurance premiums were pushed up by the need to subsidize costs for those who were ill.
“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.
The sudden announcement from Lee, a leading conservative, and Moran, who headed the Senate Republican campaign committee in the 2014 election, came as Trump was dining at the White House with several GOP supporters of the bill. That timing made their announcements a more stinging rebuke of the White House’s efforts on behalf of the measure.
Trump had just begun ramping up his efforts to lobby GOP senators. After being largely absent from the legislative process in recent weeks, the president called wayward Republican senators over the weekend, including Lee.
Though McConnell could have attempted to put together a new version of the legislation, senators made clear their concerns would not be easily addressed.
Beyond the four announced opponents, several other Republican senators had strong doubts about the bill. Earlier in the day, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, one of the Senate’s most conservative members, had said he might oppose the bill.
Johnson said he objected to statements McConnell had made in efforts to reassure centrist senators. According to Johnson, McConnell had told those senators that the steep Medicaid cuts wouldn’t take effect for years and might never happen.
On the other side of the debate, Collins and other centrists pointed to Congressional Budget Office estimates that that GOP plan would leave 22 million more Americans without health insurance by 2026. She, too, voiced serious doubts about whether the current version could be adequately revised.
The Republican bill also faced mounting opposition from the health insurance industry. Insurers until recently had resisted public criticism of the GOP healthcare campaign. On Friday, however, they issued a blistering critique of the latest version of the Senate legislation.
The industry’s two leading trade groups calling the bill “unworkable” and warned that it would make it more difficult for sicker Americans to get coverage, echoing warnings from the nonpartisan CBO, the American Academy of Actuaries and others.
As the bill’s fate appeared increasingly in doubt, Republican lawmakers have been under intense pressure not to be the senator whose vote was the final one to kill the bill. By making their announcement together, Moran and Lee may have hoped to avoid that label.
The move also exposed a new rupture among conservatives. An amendment from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to allow insurers to offer low-priced, bare-bones plans was supposed to draw conservative support.
But it was not enough for Lee, a longtime Cruz friend and ally, or Paul, who was among the first senators to reject the Senate bill.
Democrats welcomed the latest setback as they push Republicans to end their efforts to repeal Obamacare and instead work together to fix it.
“This second failure of Trumpcare is proof positive that the core of this bill is unworkable,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), referring to the original Senate bill, which had to be revised to address lawmakers’ concerns. “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.”