Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) released a new proposal to overhaul the Affordable Care Act on Thursday after spending three weeks reworking it to win over wavering lawmakers on the right and in the center.
But within hours, it was clear that Senate leaders still didn’t have the votes to fulfill their long-standing quest to replace former president Barack Obama’s 2010 health-care law.
The new draft would lift many of the ACA’s regulatory requirements, allowing insurers to offer bare-bones policies without coverage for services such as preventive or mental-health care. It would also direct billions of dollars to help lower- and middle-income Americans buy plans on the private market.
However, the draft leaves in place deep proposed cuts to Medicaid — and at least three Republicans quickly signaled opposition to the bill, casting doubt on McConnell’s plans to pass the bill next week.
“The revised Senate health-care bill released today does not include the measures I have been advocating for on behalf of the people of Arizona,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in a statement, adding he planned to offer amendments to change it.
The GOP’s continuing push — and continuing struggle — to make good on a campaign promise it began invoking seven years ago to “repeal and replace” Obamacare reflected the peril Republicans face whether they pass a bill or not.
On the one hand, the ACA has provided medical coverage for millions of Americans — and has grown more popular as a result. Moderate Republicans remained concerned Thursday that the new proposal would make insurance unaffordable for some middle-income Americans and throw millions off the rolls of Medicaid, the public insurance for disabled and low-income Americans.
Yet conservatives continued to push for a more wholesale rollback of the ACA — highlighting the danger for all Republicans of failing to achieve a promise most of them made on the campaign trail.
“The new Senate health care bill is substantially different from the version released last month, and it is unclear to me whether it has improved,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), a conservative who has pushed for a full Obamacare repeal, said in a statement. “I will need time to study the new version and speak with experts about whether it does enough to lower health insurance premiums for middle class families.”
Looming even larger was the reality that Republicans, despite their control of both chambers of Congress and with President Trump in the White House, have made little progress on an ambitious agenda that McConnell had hoped to move on to next week after a vote on the health-care bill. Among their goals are major tax legislation, raising the debt ceiling and passing a defense authorization bill.
Republican leaders seemed to acknowledge Thursday the difficult path ahead, with several speaking privately about internal divisions on how to pass the bill — and to prevent further defections.
SOURCE: Sean Sullivan, Juliet Eilperin and Kelsey Snell
The Washington Post