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Senate GOP Leaders Delay Health Vote   06/27 13:38

   In a bruising setback, Senate Republican leaders are delaying a vote on 
their prized health care bill until after the July 4 recess, forced to retreat 
by a GOP rebellion that left them lacking enough votes to even begin debating 
the legislation, two sources said Tuesday.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- In a bruising setback, Senate Republican leaders are 
delaying a vote on their prized health care bill until after the July 4 recess, 
forced to retreat by a GOP rebellion that left them lacking enough votes to 
even begin debating the legislation, two sources said Tuesday.

   Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., delivered the message to GOP 
senators at a private lunch also attended by Vice President Mike Pence and 
White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. The decision was described by a 
Republican aide and another informed person who spoke on condition of anonymity 
because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the closed-door 
decision.

   All GOP senators were planning to travel to the White House later Tuesday to 
meet with President Donald Trump, one source said.

   McConnell had hoped to push the measure through his chamber by this week's 
end, before an Independence Day recess that party leaders fear will be used by 
foes of the legislation to tear away support.

   The bill rolling back much of President Barack Obama's health care law has 
been one of the party's top priorities for years, and the delay is a major 
embarrassment to Trump and McConnell. At least five GOP senators --- 
conservatives and moderates --- had said they would vote against beginning 
debate, and the bill would be derailed if just three of the 52 Republican 
senators vote against it.

   GOP defections have built after Congress' nonpartisan budget referee said 
Monday that their measure would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026 
than Obama's 2010 statute.

   Utah's Mike Lee became the fifth Republican senator to oppose letting the 
chamber formally begin considering the proposal.

   Lee was among four conservatives who announced last week that they were 
against the current version of the legislation. His spokesman, Conn Carroll, 
said Tuesday that Lee would not vote to commence debate on the bill "as it is 
currently written."

   "I would not bet against Mitch McConnell," his House counterpart, Speaker 
Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters. But the Senate was convening later than 
usual Tuesday, and it soon became clear the votes weren't there even to begin 
debate.

   The CBO analysis suggested some ammunition GOP leaders could use, saying the 
Senate bill would cut federal deficits by $202 billion more over the coming 
decade than the version the House approved in May. Senate leaders could use 
some of those additional savings to attract moderate votes by making Medicaid 
and other provisions more generous, though conservatives would rather use that 
money to reduce red ink.

   Minutes after the CBO report's release, three GOP senators threatened to 
oppose beginning debate. Moderate Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she would 
vote no. She tweeted that she favors a bipartisan effort to fix Obama's statute 
but added, "CBO analysis shows Senate bill won't do it."

   Conservative Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said he would oppose the motion to open 
debate unless the bill was changed.

   And fellow conservative Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said he had "a hard time 
believing" he'd have enough information to back that motion this week. Moderate 
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said Friday he'd oppose the procedural motion without 
alterations.

   Lee and other conservatives have favored a fuller repeal of Obama's statute 
than the Senate bill would enact.

   The 22 million extra uninsured Americans were just 1 million fewer than the 
number the budget office estimated would become uninsured under the House 
version. Trump has called the House bill "mean" and prodded senators to produce 
a package with more "heart."

   The budget office report said the Senate bill's coverage losses would 
especially affect people between ages 50 and 64, before they qualify for 
Medicare, and with incomes below 200 percent of poverty level, or around 
$30,300 for an individual.

   The Senate plan would end the tax penalty that law imposes on people who 
don't buy insurance, in effect erasing Obama's so-called individual mandate, 
and on larger businesses that don't offer coverage to workers.

   It would let states ease Obama's requirements that insurers cover certain 
specified services like substance abuse treatments, and eliminate $700 billion 
worth of taxes over a decade, CBO said, largely on wealthier people and medical 
companies that Obama's law used to expand coverage.

   It would cut Medicaid, which provides health insurance to over 70 million 
poor and disabled people, by $772 billion through 2026 by capping its overall 
spending and phasing out Obama's expansion of the program. Of the 22 million 
people losing health coverage, 15 million would be Medicaid recipients.

   CBO said that average premiums around the country would be higher over the 
next two years --- including about 20 percent higher in 2018 than under Obama's 
statute --- but lower beginning in 2020.

   But the office said that overall, the Senate legislation would increase 
consumers' out of pocket costs. That's because standard policies would be 
skimpier than currently offered under Obama's law, covering a smaller share of 
expected medical costs.


(KA)

 
 
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