WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Republicans offered a bill on Thursday to overhaul Obamacare, the next phase in the party’s long war against the 2010 law enacted by then-Democratic President Barack Obama.
The legislation met a wall of opposition from Democrats and initial skepticism among some Republicans, leaving Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell a narrow path to passage.
The bill would roll back an expansion of the Medicaid health program for the poor and disabled over three years, cut its federal funding beginning in 2025, restructure Obamacare’s tax credits for low-income Americans, and repeal several taxes.
To pass the bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can only afford to lose two Republican votes. The Senate is comprised of 52 Republicans, 46 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the Democrats (In the event of a deadlocked vote, Republican Vice President can vote to break the tie.)
Several Republicans on Thursday expressed reservations or opposition to the bill:
Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah said in a joint statement:
“We are not ready to vote for this bill. ... There are provisions in this draft that represent an improvement to our current health care system, but it does not appear this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise that we made to Americans: to repeal Obamacare and lower their health care costs.” The four said they were open to negotiation, with Cruz saying in a separate statement that he wants to “get to yes.”
Richard Burr of North Carolina said outside the Senate: “I‘m supportive of it. I think it strikes a balance.” He added that the blueprint “can still be amended and probably will.”
Three members of the Senate Republican leadership - John Cornyn of Texas, John Thune of South Dakota, and John Barrasso of Wyoming - all put out supportive statements, saying the bill would help improve the affordability of healthcare. Barrasso said the bill was not perfect, and “we will be working to improve on this draft.”
Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania said he was “still studying it but it strikes me as a good first step in what will be an ongoing process of fulfilling a commitment we made to the American people.”
Richard Shelby of Alabama: “We’re looking at it. My plan is to support the thrust of the bill. If it’s a good bill overall, I‘m going to support it.”
Lamar Alexander of Tennessee listed a number of benefits for his constituents in the draft, including that it makes no change in Medicare benefits. “I‘m going to stay focused on it next week as the bill goes to the Senate floor ... and my focus will be on how it affects Tennesseans.”
Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia: “I will review the draft legislation released this morning ... to evaluate whether it provides access to affordable health care for West Virginians.”
Bill Cassidy of Louisiana: “I‘m undecided. I have to read the text.”
Marco Rubio of Florida said he will “decide how to vote on health care on the basis of how it impacts Florida.”
Dean Heller of Nevada said he had “serious concerns” about the bill’s impact on Medicaid in his state.
Susan Collins of Maine said it was “too soon” to judge the bill and she has some concerns about cuts to Medicaid after 2025 and defunding of Planned Parenthood.
Rob Portman of Ohio said in a statement that he continued to have “real concerns” about the Medicaid policies in the bill, especially those that affect drug treatment. He said his decision will depend on what is in the final version of the bill.
Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said, “I‘m going to read it.”
James Risch of Idaho: “It’s a work in progress. Ask me again when we see the final product.”
John McCain of Arizona said he is reading the bill. “It’s a big thing, we just found out about it. I am just waiting until I can absorb the entire bill.”
Thom Tillis of North Carolina said in a statement that any replacement plan must be a net improvement over Obamacare, and he would be “reviewing the draft legislation over the next several days.”
Tom Cotton of Arkansas said, “no comment.”
Reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell and Rick Cowan; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Jonathan Oatis