Senate Republican health care bill hangs in balance

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Senate
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Mark
Wilson/Getty Images


Senate Republicans are set to come back from a week-long recess
facing ever-dimming chances to pass their stalled
healthcare legislation
.

Continued public pressure and few concrete solutions have
left the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) seemingly further
away from passage than before the July 4 break.

A week in which lawmakers have faced pressure from constituents
at home has left the legislation’s math on the wrong side of
passage, as moderates and conservatives continue to disagree
about fundamental issues within the bill.

On Sunday, many Republicans openly questioned whether or not the
GOP will be able to deliver on a bill before the August
recess. 

Sen. Chuck Grassley, who expressed misgivings about the current
form of the BCRA in meetings last week, took to Twitter to
express displeasure with the current state of affairs in the
healthcare debate.

52 Republicazn [sic] senators shld be ashamed that we have
not passed health reform by now WE WONT BE ASHAMED WE WILL GO
FROM MAJORITY TO MINORITY,” Grassley tweeted.

Sen. John McCain was also downbeat during an appearance on
CBS’s Face the Nation.

“I think my view is it’s probably going to be dead, but
I’ve been wrong,” McCain said. “I thought I’d be president of the
United States. But I think, I fear, that it’s going to
fail.”

Sen. Bill Cassidy of Lousiana also also declared the
current BCRA “dead” in an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.” He
placed the odds of a deal at “50-50.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can only afford to
lose two votes on the BCRA with universal Democratic
opposition. Republican leadership is now targeting the week
of July 17 for a vote on the bill, reports have suggested.

Discussions with members and the CBO continue,” an aide to
McConnell told Business Insider.

But given the tumultuous week, many GOP lawmakers are
already looking ahead to what happens if the bill fails.

“Republicans we talk with are impatient — they want to ditch the
health debacle and move on to pivotal budget issues and then, of
course, begin deliberating tax cuts,” said Greg Valliere, the
chief global strategist at Horizon Investments.

Public pushback

The most apparent troubles for the Republican conference
came in the form of public reaction to their healthcare bill,
which a survey this week showed had 17% support
from US voters
.

In a variety of public events and forums over the week-long
recess, GOP lawmakers got an earful from constituents among the
83%. Even members who opposed the initial version of the
healthcare legislation faced pressure.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine received from praise from
constituents for her strong stance against the BCRA, but
some implored her to remain steadfast in her opposition

during a July 4 parade in Eastport, Maine.

Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas also faced pressure to maintain his
stance against the legislation during a town hall on
Thursday. Typically a safe bet to stick behind the GOP
leadership, Moran repeatedly expressed his misgivings over the
BCRA.

“The Affordable Care Act creates significant difficulties that
still need major attention,” Moran told reporters after the town
hall. “But I think at this point, it’s time to figure out how …
to get rid of the bad things and improve on the things that need
to be improved.”

Moran was one of only a handful of Republicans to hold
events open to the public, including BCRA skeptics
Cassidy (who favors a more moderate approach) and Ted Cruz (who
wants a stronger repeal). Cruz is pushing for an amendment to be added
to the bill
favored by conservatives, which would make it
easier for states to opt out of certain Obamacare regulations.

Cruz also faced fervent pushback at various meetings around
Texas.
According to The Washington Post
, Cruz repeatedly
encountered protesters and continually reiterated his desire
to repeal the ACA.

Threading the needle

Other GOP senators seemed to move further away from supporting
the legislation during the break. And for differing sides in the
caucus, that could lead to drastically different alternatives.

Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota — who, like Moran,
typically sides with leadership, said he was opposed
to the BCRA in its current form during a meeting with
constituents and health officials, according
to the Bismark Tribune.

This presented another potential defection for McConnell,
who spoke at a private function about the
possibility of working with Democrats
if Republicans are
unable to pass the legislation.

If my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement,
then some kind of action with regard to the private health
insurance market must occur
” the Kentucky senator said.

McConnell also said that “no action is not an
alternative.”

Similarly, Cruz expressed skepticism over the possibility of
passage during meetings in Texas throughout the week. The
one-time presidential candidate, however, had a different end
result if Republicans are unable to work out a compromise.

If we cannot bring the conference together and agree on
repeal legislation, then I think President Trump’s absolutely
right that we should pass a clean repeal
,”
Cruz said.

That approach is favored by Cruz and others like Sens. Rand Paul
and Ben Sasse. Trump has also suggested moving forward with a
simple Obamacare repeal bill if negotiations fall apart. That
would at least, they say, fulfill a key GOP promise and allow
lawmakers more time to draft an acceptable replacement.

But McConnell and more moderate members would rather work
with Democrats on a short-term plan to stabilize the insurance
markets, lest they deteriorate even worse. Based on polling from
the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health policy think
tank, voters are more inclined to pin any further harm
to the healthcare market on Republicans.

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Senate Republican health care bill hangs in balance

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