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Senate Republicans Unveil Revised Health Care Proposal

  • Michael Bowman

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is surrounded by reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 13, 2017, after a revised version of the Republican health care bill was announced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Republican senators remain divided on their leadership's plan to replace major portions of former President Barack Obama's 2010 health care law, known as Obamacare.

A revised plan unveiled Thursday got preliminary backing from at least one more Republican, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, after his proposal to loosen coverage requirements on some health care plans was adopted.

But some moderate Republicans remained opposed to the plan, arguing it would harm vulnerable constituents by reducing funding for a federal program that covers health care costs for the poor and disabled.

Reservations about bill

"Still deep cuts to Medicaid in Senate bill," Maine Senator Susan Collins wrote on Twitter, adding that she would oppose a motion to begin floor debate on the legislation and that she stood ready to work with Democrats to "fix flaws" in Obamacare.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 13, 2017. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. rolled out the GOP's revised health care bill, pushing toward a showdown vote next week with opposition within the Republican ranks.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 13, 2017. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. rolled out the GOP's revised health care bill, pushing toward a showdown vote next week with opposition within the Republican ranks.

Two other moderates, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Rob Portman of Ohio, voiced reservations about the proposal as they emerged from a closed-door meeting of the 52-member Republican caucus.

Among fiscal hawks, Rand Paul of Kentucky blasted the proposal even before its official unveiling, noting that it retained some Obamacare taxes designed to help Americans of limited means purchase private health care insurance.

With Democrats unified in opposition, Republicans can afford at most two "no" votes from their ranks in the 100-member chamber.

Democrats wasted no time in savaging the revamped Republican initiative.

"It appears that little has changed at the core of the bill," Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said. "The Republican Trumpcare bill still slashes Medicaid … a devastating blow to rural hospitals, to Americans in nursing homes, to those struggling with opioid addiction."

Improve, not scrap

Schumer urged a bipartisan effort to improve Obamacare, not scrap it.

"This [Republican bill] is far, far worse than the status quo," he said. "We, Republicans and Democrats, can work together to actually improve our health care system, to stabilize the marketplaces and reduce the costs that average Americans pay for their health care."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky leaves the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 13, 2017, after announcing the revised version of the Republican health care bill.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky leaves the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 13, 2017, after announcing the revised version of the Republican health care bill.

For now, President Donald Trump and Republican congressional leaders are sticking to their party's oft-repeated promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.

"Obamacare was a direct attack on the middle class from the very start, and is a ticking time bomb. Obamacare's yearslong hurdle toward collapse is rapidly approaching," Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said. "Things are not likely to turn around unless we act."

McConnell canceled the first two weeks of the Senate's traditional August recess to allow more time for deliberations on health care and other legislative priorities.

"I cannot imagine that Congress would dare to leave Washington without a beautiful new HealthCare bill fully approved and ready to go!" Trump tweeted earlier this week.

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