US Senate opposition to Obamacare repeal bill grows

© Reuters. Senator Ted Cruz (Republican of Texas) talks to reporters after the failure of the “skinny repeal” health care bill on Capitol Hill in Washington

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A proposal by U.S. Republicans to repeal and replace the Obamacare health insurance program suffered further serious setbacks within the party on Sunday, when Senator Ted Cruz voiced opposition and Senator Susan Collins harshly criticized the legislation. .

Two other Republican senators, John McCain and Rand Paul, already said last week that they would vote against the so-called Graham-Cassidy bill. One more “no” vote among Republicans would effectively end the party’s latest effort in its seven-year mission to reverse Obamacare, as it deals another blow to President Donald Trump.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has said he “intends” to put the bill to a vote this week, but has made no public comment in recent days because some of his Republicans have base abandoned Trump.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, interviewed on CNN’s “State of the Union,” reflected the uncertainty in the battle.

“It’s going to be very close. I hope it happens,” he said.

Phil Novack, a spokesman for Cruz, confirmed that the Republican senator said at an event in Texas: “Right now, they don’t have my vote, and I don’t think they have (Senator) Mike Lee’s vote either.”

Lee is a conservative Republican and a close ally of Cruz. A spokesman for Lee said the senator wanted “some technical changes” to the legislation, but did not provide details. “We have not committed to anything yet,” Conn Carroll said in an email.

Politico reported that Cruz complained that the latest Obamacare repeal bill failed to address his concerns about reducing health care costs.

On Friday, news of McCain’s opposition sent shares in health insurance companies higher. Centene closed 1.6 percent higher and Humana (NYSE 🙂 closed 0.2 percent higher.

Trump has lobbied fellow Republicans to quickly pass what would be his first victory on major legislation. All Democrats are expected to vote against.

SUPPORT COLLINS IN DOUBT

But Collins, perhaps the most moderate of the Republican senators, seemed willing to oppose her party’s latest replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act, the signature legislative achievement of former Democratic President Barack Obama.

She, along with McCain and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, voted in July against an earlier version of the Obamacare repeal.

“It’s very difficult for me to imagine a scenario where I would end up voting in favor of this bill,” Collins said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” show, two days after saying he was “leaning against it. “the legislation.

Collins said his concerns centered on the impact the legislation would have on the federal Medicaid program, which helps disabled children and low-income seniors obtain health care.

The Senate, which Republicans control 52-48, faces a deadline Saturday to decide on the bill under an expiring rule that allows the health care proposal to pass with just a simple majority in the House. 100 members, instead of the necessary 60 vote threshold. for most legislation.

Paul, interviewed on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” attacked the centerpiece of the Republican bill that would have the federal government basically hand over the health insurance system to the states in the form of “block grants.”

“They could eliminate block grants and we can vote on what we actually agreed to,” Paul said. “I cannot vote in conscience to keep all expenses.”

Some key Senate Republicans were still pushing to move forward.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is leading the charge on the latest version of the Obamacare repeal, told ABC that he believed he would have the votes to pass the legislation.

“The only way to know how people will vote is by voting,” he said.

Graham did not detail the path he sees to victory.