Sunday, May 21, 2017

This week, Sen. Mitch McConnell can start making decisions about what Senate Republicans will put in their health bill

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell's role in the national health debate "will come into sharp relief this week," Burgess Everett and Jennifer Haberkorn report for Politico. "He will decide the contents of the Senate’s plan, most likely behind closed doors. And he is on the hook for getting something through a sharply divided Senate Republican Conference in the midst of an increasingly imperiled presidency."

The first shoe will drop Wednesday, when the Congressional Budget Office delivers "a highly anticipated report on the House health-care bill that is expected to show it would cause huge coverage losses," Politico notes. "That will provide a new round of ammunition to Obamacare supporters, even as it allows the Senate to truly start writing its own plan."

McConnell, who as majority leader named a 13-member working group to come up with the outlines of a bill, has been meeting with senators "without making substantive progress, according to attendees," Politico reports. "In the coming days, McConnell will have to move to break the impasse."

Sens. Lamar Alexander and Mitch McConnell (Getty Images)
The Kentuckian has given no clue to what he might do in concert with Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Mike Enzi of Wyoming, chairs of the key committees that will handle the bill publicly once it is drafted privately.

“Mitch right now is listening very carefully. He’s being very careful not to weigh in, thinking that this needs to come from the membership,” an unnamed GOP senator told Politico. “He’s not trying to force a particular point of view.”

"Only the faintest outline of a plan is taking shape," Politico reports. "Senators are working to make the House bill's tax credits more generous and to find a way to wind down Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion more slowly," instead of 2020. "The Senate is expected to repeal many Obamacare regulations but not go as far as the House did in rolling back protections for people with preexisting conditions." The House bill would give the states power to do that.

"The idea, according to several lawmakers, is that if the relatively ideologically diverse working group can agree to get behind a bill, that would get the GOP close to 50 votes," the point at which Vice President Mike Pence would break the tie in favor of Republicans. But it would be up to McConnell to get to 50, and that will be difficult.

“It’s pretty easy to put together 46 or 47,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). “It’s getting to 50 that’s a challenge.” One obstacle may be Kentucky's other senator, Rand Paul, who is out of the Senate mainstream, saying the House bill didn't go far enough.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas said there will be a vote on the bill by late July, before the August recess, but "Some doubt that aggressive timeline," Politico reports. "Some Republican senators were privately hoping it would never reach this point. They would have preferred that the House bill fail, to spare them having to take up a measure they believe would cause too many people to lose insurance and do too little to lower premiums."

Kentucky's only Democratic member of Congress, Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville, said recently that McConnell would not allow a health bill to come to a vote in the Senate, for fear of political repercussions in the 2018 elections. But Politico reports, "McConnell wants to have a vote on an Obamacare repeal bill, whether it passes or not, so the Senate can move on to tax reform and spending bills."

It would be unusual to bring a bill to a floor vote without a guarantee of passage, but that seems possible in this case. “We’re on a track to write a bill and vote on it,” Alexander told Politico; whether it will be successful, “I can’t say.”

No comments:

Post a Comment