Health care on Senate Republicans' Agenda

Sunday, 11 Jun, 2017

The Republicans had been opposed to changes in pricing of pharmaceuticals, so when Trump won (and more importantly when Republicans maintained control of both the House and the Senate), the likelihood of onerous drug-pricing legislation significantly dropped. Republicans haven't drafted legislative language on the thorniest issues, and there's no consensus on how to proceed on some major sticking points in the bill.

But increasingly the expectation is that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will hold a vote, even if the outcome is that it fails, in order to be able to move on to other issues.

"We're getting closer to having a proposal that we'll be bringing up in the near future", McConnell of Kentucky told reporters after a closed-door Senate GOP luncheon.

The Senate parliamentarian ruled that the House bill can advance under the strict rules of reconciliation, a legislative vehicle that enable Republicans to pass health care with 51 votes instead of 60 but also mandates that the legislation must save money.

Yet political obstacles remain.

Democrats have been holding near-daily press conferences outlining concerns they have with the legislation that narrowly passed the House last month. We're still looking at those key goals and how to get there. "It's a heavy lift". A White House official told CNN on Saturday that Trump would focus on infrastructure for the following week, including trips to OH and the Department of Transportation office in Washington.

A growing number of insurers are leaving Obamacare markets or proposing steep premium increases next year, partly because of the law's weaknesses but also now because the Trump administration refuses to commit to steps to keep them operating, such as enforcing a penalty on people who don't get insurance and providing aid to low-income consumers. Congressional Republicans are eager to move beyond health care in order to take up tax reform and FY2018 federal government funding.

His comments came amid continuing turmoil among ruling Republicans in Washington, where in the Senate the GOP has a narrow 52-member majority in the 100-member body as it seeks to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

For instance, "moderate" Republican senators like Nevada's Dean Heller, Ohio's Rob Portman, and West Virginia's Shelley Moore Capito all claimed they would not support the House's plan to end the Medicaid expansion, but all three of them now support a proposal to phase out Medicaid expansion that shifts the date until after they are re-elected. "What they're pursuing is a loser strategy because they don't want to vote for the House bill ... and they're unwilling to give up the basic architecture of the House bill".

"Obviously it does something for pre-existing conditions, that's incredibly important to the American people", he said.

Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) said Republicans have whittled their options down to about "five" different plans.

If the parliamentarian had discovered a fatal error on Tuesday, it would have forced the House to hold a hard revote. "I am thinking it through", said Sen.

"They were really broad", Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, said.

Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz alleged in a tweet "13 Republican men are meeting in secret to make a healthcare plan. [Chuck] Grassley, because you've been in the Senate so long you know the value of the hearing process and the amendment process". By exposing those true designs to the public, this debate has succeeded in making Obamacare more popular and has underscored public opposition to rolling back the historic coverage expansion it has achieved, despite all its real flaws and need for improvement. "Rather, members are coming together, I believe in good faith, [and] working to come to common ground".

Many Senate Republicans fear that the House proposal for replacing Obamacare refundable tax credits targeted exclusively to low-income Americans with less generous tax subsidies available to nearly anyone based on age will force millions of people out of the market. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Sen.