Senate Republicans Haven’t Seen Their Secret Health Bill Either

McCain says he hasnt met any American who has seen the bill

Senate Republicans may be asked to vote on a controversial health-care bill as early as next week but most of them havent seen the plan and at least half a dozen say theyre not sure they can support it.

Im very eager to see the language, which I expect will be released later this week, Senator Susan Collins of Maine told reporters in Washington, adding that shes concerned that leadership may be moving quickly toward a vote on the Obamacare repeal measure next week. I dont think it gives enough time to thoroughly analyze the bill, but well see when it comes out.

Senators Jeff Flake of Arizona and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania also said theyre withholding judgment. Almost no one has seen the proposal being written by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, amid secret negotiations with about a dozen Republican lawmakers.

Arizona Republican John McCain, asked whether hes seen the bill, said, “No, nor have I met any American that has. Im sure the Russians have been able to hack in and gotten most of it.”

Second-ranking Senate Republican John Cornyn of Texas said lawmakers are working on the legislation as fast as we can. Asked when a vote may be held, he said, Some have said by the fourth of July. That would be my hope, but Ive also said that failing that we have to get it done by the end of July.

Republicans control the Senate 52-48 and plan to use an expedited procedure to pass a health plan with as few as 50 votes, plus a tie-breaker from Vice President Mike Pence. That would bypass the usual 60-vote threshold and keep Democrats from blocking the measure.

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Democrats are angered about the secretive bill-writing process, and top Republicans — including Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah — have said they dont know whats in the bill either.

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, one of the key moderate holdouts, said leaders shouldnt expect to be able to buy off her vote with an Alaska-specific solution.

“This is like a really big deal to get this right for the country,” Murkowski told reporters. “Youre asking me questions about something that neither one of us know what it looks like. Doesnt that worry you as a reporter? You dont even know how to frame the questions. I dont know how to frame the responses.”

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who insists the bill must not provide more generous health-care subsidies than Obamacare, said the measure should have been debated “in the open.” Using a one-party approach is setting up failure over the long term, he said.

It might be time to get the copier out, he said. We still havent seen the bill

When the House was debating its health-care bill earlier in the year, a grassroots campaign against the measure nearly derailed it as GOP lawmakers were bombarded by hostile questions at town hall meetings. An Obamacare replacement eventually passed the House last month, 217-213.

Democrats on Monday started using procedural roadblocks to slow down routine Senate business, and if a GOP measure is put on the floor they will propose many amendments to try to prevent passage before the week-long July 4 recess. Opponents of a replacement plan want to pressure Republicans to turn against it while theyre home with constituents.

The House measure would cut Medicaid by $834 billion over a decade, repeal $664 billion of Obamacares tax increases on the wealthy and the health-care industry, and end requirements that individuals get health insurance and that most employers provide it. It would replace Obamacare subsidies with tax credits based primarily on age, and let states get waivers from some of the Affordable Care Acts consumer protections.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says it would cause 23 million more Americans to be without health insurance by 2016. A May 16-22 Kaiser Family Foundation poll said 55 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view the bill, H.R. 1628.

Senate Republicans are considering a more modest version, including a slower phase-out of Obamacares Medicaid expansion, better protection for people with pre-existing conditions, retaining some Obamacare tax increases, and tax credits based on income as well as age.

GOP Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said he is expecting a bill text by Thursday and is “oriented” toward wanting to support it but cant say yet how he would vote. Leaders are “trying to hit the sweet spot” on issues like the Medicaid expansion.

“I just dont know how its going to end up right now,” Corker said.

Paul said he sees a risk that the Senate bill will include subsidies for insurance purchases that are higher than the House measures level, which he said is about 90 percent of what Obamacare offered.

“One of the key things Ill be looking at when it comes out, when we get a copy, is are there more subsidies in our bill than Obamacare,” Paul said. “That to me really is a nonstarter.”

The GOP also must navigate abortion policy. Restrictions on abortion funding in the House bill are opposed by at least two Senate Republicans — Collins and Murkowski — but if removed could thwart House approval of a final measure.

Underscoring the differences, a group of House Republicans drafted a letter to send to McConnell later this week expressing serious concerns about the Senate proposal. The House Republican Study Committee, lawmakers who advocate small government, insists on keeping the House bills abortion restrictions, Medicaid cutbacks and state waivers of Obamacare consumer protections.

Absent a Senate plan, Democrats sought Tuesday to highlight the House bills impact on senior citizens, after the CBO said premiums for many could soar if it became law.

Theres no doubt that this bill, if it actually passes and becomes law, that Americans over the age of 50 will be the worst off, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, said at a news conference.

Read more at: www.bloomberg.com

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