Senate health care bill already in trouble as Republicans voice opposition

Senate health care bill already in trouble as Republicans voice opposition
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) walks on to the Senate floor to discuss the GOP's health care reform bill.
Source: Andrew Harnik/AP
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) walks on to the Senate floor to discuss the GOP's health care reform bill.
Source: Andrew Harnik/AP

The health care draft bill Senate Republicans released Thursday morning is already at risk of imploding, after four GOP Senators announced they could not support the plan in its current form.

Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said in a statement that they oppose the draft plan in its current form. That's more than the two votes Senate Republicans can stand to lose in order for the bill to pass.

“Currently, for a variety of reasons, we are not ready to vote for this bill, but we are open to negotiation and obtaining more information before it is brought to the floor," the four Senate Republicans wrote in a statement. "There are provisions in this draft that represent an improvement to our current healthcare system but it does not appear this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise that we made to Americans: to repeal Obamacare and lower their healthcare costs.”

The early opposition to the plan could thwart Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's plan to vote on the legislation in a week — before the Senate heads out for the July 4 recess.

Johnson added in an interview with reporters on Capitol Hill that for now, his opposition is more about not having enough time to review the bill than the bill's actual substance.

Sen. Ron Johnson is one of the four Republican Senators who have announced opposition to the bill in its current form.
Source: Steve Helber/AP

"We need people to have the time to go through it," Johnson said. "My constituents in Wisconsin have to review the bill, they've got to provide that kind of input, I've got to talk to the governor, to our state legislators, to doctors, to nurses, to state health care providers, to hospitals, and we actually have to get the information that we don't have yet."

Paul added that voicing opposition may be the only way to force the changes he wants to see in the legislation.

"We're open to negotiation and we'll see," Paul said. "The bill can be made better. I don't think there's a realistic negotiation unless we let people know there aren't enough votes."

The draft bill crafted by Senate Republicans would slash benefits for poor and low-income Americans, while cutting taxes for the wealthy.

The bill phases out the expanded Medicaid coverage for the poor granted by the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, allows states to do away with "Essential Health Benefits" and reduces the number of people eligible for subsidies to help pay for the cost of coverage.

At the same time, the subsidies granted would be based on lower quality health plans, and would thus afford people less coverage.

Will Drabold contributed reporting

June 22, 2017 2:30 p.m.: This article has been updated