Even before the Congressional Budget Office released a damning estimate Monday about how many Americans would lose their insurance coverage under the Senate Republican health care bill, several of the Senate’s most conservative and most moderate Republicans had expressed extreme reluctance to lend the legislation their support.
Then, within hours of the CBO announcement — it estimated that 22 million additional Americans will be uninsured in less than a decade, 15 million of them in 2018 alone — a group of Republican senators suggested that not only will they not vote for the bill themselves, they won’t support it being voted on by the Senate at all.
At least five Republicans — Nevada’s Dean Heller, Maine’s Susan Collins, Utah’s Mike Lee, Kentucky’s Rand Paul, and Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson — have indicated that they will not support a proposed Tuesday motion to bring the bill, dubbed the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), to the Senate floor. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can afford to lose the support of just two Republicans for that motion if he wants a full-Senate vote to happen.
(That’s assuming no Democrats lend their support, which is an extraordinarily safe assumption.)
Johnson, who wants a bill that’s more friendly to business, said that an attempt by McConnell to bring up the bill Tuesday would be a “mistake.” Collins tweeted that the “CBO analysis shows Senate bill won’t… fix the flaws in [the Affordable Care Act].” Heller had announced his opposition to the bill in a strong statement Friday in which he said he opposed its drastic cuts to Medicaid.
And Paul was especially blunt: “It’s a terrible bill.”
Republicans are still smarting from the brutal fight that led to the narrow passage of the House of Representatives’ version of the health care bill in May, which is seemingly why McConnell and his allies have attempted to push their bill through as quickly and quietly as possible. They have indicated that they would not submit further amendments to the BCRA for an improved CBO score.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn tweeted on Monday that there needs to be a vote on the Senate bill this week “before double digit premium increases are announced for next year.” The filing deadline for such increases was last week, however, and so a rushed vote would seem to do little but eliminate the chance for extended debate.
Several Senate Republicans have indicated they will support both the bill and the motion to put it up for a vote. Sen. John McCain said that opposing a bill because you don’t like everything in it is “not how it works.” Before ducking into an elevator, Oklahoma’s Jim Inhofe told reporters that “I’m not sure what [the bill] does. I just know it’s better than Obamacare.”
McConnell has about $200 billion with which to tweak the bill and satisfy Republicans still on the fence. The BCRA as written saves taxpayers $321 billion, and due to procedural reasons, McConnell can pare that number down to $119 billion — in other words, he could agree to spend more on Medicaid — in order to keep the BCRA in line with filibuster-proof reconciliation rules.