Despite delay, McConnell says good progress made on health bill
WASHINGTON (KTVU/AP) - A stunning setback for the long-awaited Republican Senate health care bill, forced Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to delay a planned vote Thursday, as a growing number of Republicans from both wings of the GOP said they would not support the bill in its current form.
President Trump called an emergency meeting Tuesday, inviting all 52 Senate Republicans to discuss how they might fulfill their campaign promises to repeal and replace the Obama Affordable Care Act. The president seemed to back away from his tough campaign talk about repealing the Obama health insurance law.
"This will be great if we get it done, and if we don't get it done it's just going to be something that we're not going to like, and that's okay and I understand that very well," said President Trump.
McConnell said after the meeting there's a "really good chance" of passing the bill, but it won't happen before July Fourth as he originally planned.
McConnell says Republicans must come up with a solution because that's why the American people elected them. He says negotiating with Senate Democrats won't produce any of the changes sought by Republicans, including to the health markets and Medicaid. The replacement would reduce funding for Medicaid, cut taxes on investments and cause 22 million fewer people to no longer have health insurance, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
New analysis shows that millionaires would get tax cuts averaging $52,000 a year from the Senate Republicans' health bill. Middle-income families would get about $260.
The analysis was done by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. It found that half of the tax cuts would go to families making more than $500,000 a year. At the other end, families making $20,000 a year would, on average, get a $190 tax cut. The Republican health bill would repeal and replace President Barack Obama's health law. The law imposed a series of tax increases mainly targeted high-income families. The Senate Republican bill would repeal the taxes, though not all at once.
California's Democratic senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris held a conference call with Governor Jerry Brown to voice their outrage.
"It's the most indefensible bill I've actually seen in 24 years in the Senate," said Feinstein.
Medicaid covers 1 in 3 of all Californians. That means 14 million people would be at risk of losing coverage, 3 in 5 nursing home beds, 1 in 2 people with disabilities could lose care," said Feinstein.
"The reality is it is as bad in some cases worse than the House bill that even Trump called mean," said Harris, "22 million, the number that the CBO mentioned, is the combined population of 16 states, "
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco also blasted the bill.
"It's impossible to exaggerate the harm this bill will cause," said Pelosi, "If they move further to the right it will not only just say what they're willing to do to the American people, it will tell people what they have or have not in their souls."
Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia have persistently criticized the bill's cuts in Medicaid, and have sought billions more to combat opioid abuse. Both said for the first time Tuesday they opposed the measure.
Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas said last week he would examine whether the proposal was good for his state. He said Tuesday the bill did not have his support, saying he wanted more affordable and better quality health care.
President Donald Trump says he wants the replacement of the 2009 health insurance law to increase the number of insurance coverage choices and lower premiums, a senior White House official says.
The president was stressing these goals in a meeting Tuesday with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican who opposes the Senate's planned replacement of the government's health insurance expansion under former President Barack Obama. The official insisted on anonymity to describe private conversations.
Major veterans' organizations are voicing concerns about a Senate Republican bill to repeal the nation's health care law. They fear the impact of rising insurance costs and are worried the underfunded Department of Veterans Affairs won't be able to fill the coverage gap.
Paralyzed Veterans of America is one of the six biggest nonpartisan veterans' groups. In a letter to senators Tuesday, it criticized an "opaque and closed" legislative process and proposed cuts to Medicaid that could lead to hundreds of thousands of lower-income veterans losing their insurance.
The organization joins a Democratic-leaning group, VoteVets, in opposing the bill. VoteVets launched a six-figure ad campaign in two states to pressure senators.
Disabled American Veterans and AMVETS also are expressing concern about the Senate legislation backed by President Donald Trump.
The New York attorney general is threatening to file a lawsuit to block the implementation of a Republican health care overhaul.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Tuesday that the evolving Senate bill violates women's constitutional rights by de-funding Planned Parenthood. It also violates New York's state's rights, he said, by targeting a New York-specific Medicaid provision.
Schneiderman said, "If the version of the health care bill proposed last week ever becomes law, I am committed to going to court to challenge it to protect New Yorkers from these wrong-headed and unconstitutional" policies.
The Democrat made the comments in a speech to state business leaders. He later said his office is "doing the research" to prepare for possible litigation.
Utah Sen. Mike Lee has become the fifth Republican senator to oppose starting debate on the GOP health care bill. That deals another blow to party leaders hoping to push the top-priority measure through the Senate this week.
Lee was among four conservative senators who announced last week they oppose the bill's current version. Lee spokesman Conn Carroll said Tuesday that the lawmaker will not vote for a crucial procedural motion allowing the Senate to begin debate on the legislation, unless it's changed.
House Speaker Paul Ryan says he has faith in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's ability to round up the votes for the Republican health care bill despite growing opposition in the Senate.
Ryan told reporters on Tuesday: "I would not bet against Mitch McConnell."
The Wisconsin Republican said he has every expectation that the Senate will move ahead on the bill, which the Congressional Budget Office says would kick 22 million off the insurance rolls. The bill would cut taxes, reduce the deficit and phase out the Medicaid expansion implemented by Barack Obama's health law.
Ryan said every Republican senator campaigned on repealing and replacing Obama's law.
To be approved, no more than two of the 52 GOP senators can vote against it.