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ACA Repeal in Limbo, No Senate Vote    06/28 06:11

   The Republican Party's long-promised repeal of "Obamacare" stands in limbo 
after Senate GOP leaders, short of support, abruptly shelved a vote on 
legislation to fulfill the promise.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Republican Party's long-promised repeal of 
"Obamacare" stands in limbo after Senate GOP leaders, short of support, 
abruptly shelved a vote on legislation to fulfill the promise.

   The surprise development leaves the legislation's fate uncertain while 
raising new doubts about whether President Donald Trump will ever make good on 
his many promises to erase his predecessor's signature legislative achievement.

   Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell announced the delay Tuesday after 
it became clear the votes weren't there to advance the legislation past key 
procedural hurdles. Trump immediately invited Senate Republicans to the White 
House, but the message he delivered to them before reporters were ushered out 
of the room was not entirely hopeful.

   "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 OK and I 
understand that very well," he told the senators, who surrounded him at tables 
arranged in a giant square in the East Room. Most wore grim expressions.

   In the private meeting that followed, said Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, the 
president spoke of "the costs of failure, what it would mean to not get it done 
--- the view that we would wind up in a situation where the markets will 
collapse and Republicans will be blamed for it and then potentially have to 
fight off an effort to expand to single payer at some point."

   The bill has many critics and few outspoken fans on Capitol Hill, and 
prospects for changing that are uncertain. McConnell promised to revisit the 
legislation after Congress' July 4 recess.

   "It's a big complicated subject, we've got a lot discussions going on, and 
we're still optimistic we're going to get there," the Kentucky lawmaker said.

   But adjustments to placate conservatives, who want the legislation to be 
more stringent, only push away moderates who think its current limits --- on 
Medicaid for example --- are too strong.

   In the folksy analysis of John Cornyn of Texas, the Senate GOP vote-counter: 
"Every time you get one bullfrog in the wheelbarrow, another one jumps out."

   McConnell can lose only two senators from his 52-member caucus and still 
pass the bill, with Vice President Mike Pence to cast a tie-breaking vote. 
Democrats are opposed, as are most medical groups and the AARP, though the U.S. 
Chamber of Commerce supports the bill.

   A number of GOP governors oppose the legislation, especially in states that 
have expanded the Medicaid program for the poor under former President Barack 
Obama's Affordable Care Act. Opposition from Nevada's popular Republican Gov. 
Brian Sandoval helped push GOP Sen. Dean Heller, who is vulnerable in next 
year's midterms, to denounce the legislation last Friday; Ohio's Republican 
Gov. John Kasich held an event at the National Press Club Tuesday to criticize 
it.

   The House went through its own struggles with its version of the bill, 
pulling it from the floor short of votes before reviving it and narrowly 
passing it in May. So it's quite possible that the Senate Republicans can rise 
from this week's setback.

   But McConnell is finding it difficult to satisfy demands from his diverse 
caucus. Conservatives like Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah argue 
that the legislation doesn't go far enough in repealing Obamacare. But 
moderates like Heller and Susan Collins of Maine criticize the bill as overly 
punitive in throwing people off insurance roles and limiting benefits paid by 
Medicaid, which has become the nation's biggest health care program, covering 
nursing home care for seniors as well as care for many poor Americans.

   GOP defections increased after the Congressional Budget Office said Monday 
the measure would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026 than Obama's 
2010 statute. McConnell told senators he wanted them to agree to a final 
version of the bill before the end of this week so they could seek a new 
analysis by the budget office. He said that would give lawmakers time to finish 
when they return to the Capitol for a three-week stretch in July before 
Congress' summer break.

   The 22 million extra uninsured Americans are 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 Senate plan would end the tax penalty the 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 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.


(KA)

 
 
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