The Senate health care bill appeared to stall late Monday for lack of votes needed to pass.
Last week, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said he was encouraged by the direction of the bill, while Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said he had concerns about its effects on Tennesseans and was waiting to see a report from the Congressional Budget Office.
The bill was to have been considered this week, but was delayed until at least next week to give Arizona Republican Senator John McCain time to recover from surgery to remove a blood clot. McCain’s presence was needed to advance the bill, which has faced growing opposition.
Then news broke late Monday that the bill in its current form has been brought to a halt after more senators stepped forward to say they wouldn’t support it. That means leaders will need to revamp the bill or scrap health care legislation this year.
Some senators are opposed to the bill because they say the proposed cuts to Medicaid are too steep, while Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) says it keeps too much of Obamacare intact. Paul mounted a campaign to convince fellow Republicans that the bill is not a repeal as promised. The bill has the backing of the Trump administration.
“Despite unified control of Congress and Trump in the White House, disagreements within the GOP still threaten to cripple its effort to overhaul the health-care system,” said an article in the Washington Post on Sunday.
The Congressional Budget Office was expected to release its report sometime this week.
Tennessee’s Republican senators both released statements last week. In a statement Thursday, Corker said:
I very much appreciate the way Senate leadership has taken input as they worked to craft this legislation. As we debate the bill next week, every senator – on both sides of the aisle – will have the opportunity to offer amendments and have their voice heard. I am encouraged by the direction of the bill and am hopeful the final product will be one that works better for the American people than what is in place today.
The same day, Alexander released a statement saying:
As I told Bradley Countians last week, my first concern with the Senate health care bill is helping the 162,000 low-income Tennesseans who currently have no help with their health insurance and the 350,000 Tennesseans who may not be able to buy insurance in the individual market next year. The revised Senate health care bill ensures financial assistance for those 162,000 Tennesseans and includes an additional $70 billion to help lower-income Americans in the individual market in Tennessee and elsewhere be able to buy a reasonable health insurance policy.
I am continuing to review this draft and will see what it costs when the Congressional Budget Office gives its report. Then, I’ll stay focused on how it affects Tennesseans as the bill next week goes to the Senate floor, where it will be subject to virtually unlimited amendments. My goals for this bill have not changed since I laid them out in May: 1) rescuing the thousands of Tennesseans and millions of Americans who will be trapped in collapsing Affordable Care Act exchanges with few or even zero options for health insurance in 2018 unless Congress acts; 2) lowering premium costs, which have increased under the ACA law; 3) gradually giving states more flexibility on the Medicaid program, but do this in a way that does not pull the rug out from under people who rely on Medicaid; and 4) making sure those with pre-existing conditions have access to insurance.
Sen. Rand Paul, meanwhile, wrote a strongly worded op-ed published Friday by the online news and opinion website Rare. In the piece, Paul said Republicans would badly compromise their principles by passing the legislation. By passing the bill, Senate Republicans “will be voting to keep the main premise of Obamacare and all its attendant distortions and market disruptions.”
The proposed legislation retains most of the Obamacare taxes, regulations and subsidies, and even worse, creates an insurance bailout superfund, Paul wrote. He continued:
Some say Republicans must act even if the bill is not that good; we must act or risk losing our majority. But would it be worth it after all, after knowing Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, to simply act for action’s sake but forfeit our liberty’s soul in the process?The last remaining vestige of the freedom-loving soul, the dying embers of belief in the marketplace, will expire before our very eyes.Upon this crucible, this false hope of cheap insurance through massive subsidies, burn the beliefs that made America great.The freedom of exchange, the freedom of choice implicit in free transactions, is consumed by this bill. With a whimper of defeat, capitalism is cast off without a second thought.