- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 27, 2017

SenateGOP leaders said Tuesday they will charge toward a health care vote this week despite mounting concerns from within their own party.

Americans are counting on them to keep their campaign promises and swiftly repeal Obamacare, they said, so it is time to get moving.

“I think we have to face this down,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, said. “I don’t think we can keep putting it off.”

Yet at least three GOP senators have said they’re ready to reject a move by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to even take up the bill this week. If they hold to that position, Democrats could force the repeal effort to stall out ahead of a weeklong July 4th recess.

One of the Republican holdouts — Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky — pleaded his case directly to President Trump during a Tuesday afternoon meeting. He said GOP leaders have frozen him out, even as they scramble to mollify holdouts who could sink the plan.

“The bill is currently not real repeal and needs major improvement,” Mr. Paul said on Twitter. “I’ll discuss w/ him how to fix bill & get more to a YES on real repeal, things I’ve tried to tell Senate leaders with no result so far.”

Others want more time to review the draft plan, while a pair of centrists said the bill is too harsh on Medicaid and would result in too many people falling off the insurance rolls.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said leaders weren’t ready to announce changes to the bill, though predicted they would prevail.

“We’re gonna vote, we’re gonna pass it,” he said.

Mr. McConnnell can afford two defections and still pass a bill under fast-track budget rules, with Vice President Mike Pence serving as a tie-breaking vote.

Yet a Congressional Budget Office report threw a major roadblock in front of his plans for a vote this week ahead the July 4th recess.

Analysts said the Senate repeal bill would lower most Americans’ premiums and save the government more than $300 billion over the next decade — but that it would also leave 22 million fewer people with health coverage, looking moderates who are under pressure to preserve Obamacare’s coverage gains.

The GOP’s decision to rein in Medicaid spending is a key sticking point, since the insurance program for the poor covers about one in five Americans, half of U.S. births and two out of every three nursing home stays.

Hospitals and governors, including some Republicans, also say Medicaid cuts would devastate their budgets.

“Medicaid cuts hurt most vulnerable Americans; access to healthcare in rural areas threatened,” tweeted Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican and key holdout.

Senior Republicans are talking tough for now, warning that Democrats will push a government-run, “Medicare for all” system if the GOP doesn’t flex its 52-seat majority and pass a repeal plan now.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, told the Wall Street Journal that Democrats should campaign on single-payer during the next two election cycles.

Senior GOP lawmakers are expected to take some of the savings in their plan to try and make side deals with Republicans who are on the fence. Republicans will also discuss the way forward during a party luncheon Tuesday, as Mr. McConnell decides whether to push a motion to proceed onto the bill or pump the brakes.

Democrats, meanwhile, are making emotional pleas to try and stamp out the Senate bill’s chances.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi planned to visit a D.C. children’s hospital Tuesday to highlight Medicaid cuts in the plan, while Senate Democrats rallied on the Capitol steps with photos of people who say they’ll be hurt by the plan.

“These are the faces, the human toll, that Trumpcare would take on our country, our citizenry, our great American people,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said.

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