WASHINGTON May 7 U.S. Democrats on Sunday
criticized the lack of women on a working group in the
Republican-led Senate tasked with crafting a plan to pass
legislation that repeals and replaces Obamacare.
As the Senate begins to wrestle with a Republican healthcare
bill narrowly approved by the House of Representatives last
week, senators questioned why the 13-member working group put
together by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell does not
include any of the chamber's five Republican women.
"Women's health is a big part of this and women are a
majority of the population, and their health interests deserve
to be contemplated in any reform," Democratic Senator Dianne
Feinstein of California said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington wrote on
Twitter: "It matters to have women at the table — and it matters
when they aren't."
Republicans pushed their healthcare restructuring through
the House on a 217-213 vote, handing President Donald Trump his
first major legislative success. But the bill faces an uncertain
future in the Senate, where Republicans have a narrow majority
and several members have suggested they will develop their own
Democrats are united in opposition to the House bill to gut
former President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law.
The Senate's healthcare working group includes the
Republican leadership, several committee chairmen and a
combination of conservatives such as Ted Cruz of Texas and more
moderate Republicans from politically important swing states
such as Rob Portman of Ohio and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Critics said the group's lack of diversity would eliminate
"The GOP is crafting policy on an issue that directly
impacts women without including a single woman in the process.
It's wrong," Democratic Senator Kamala Harris of California
wrote on Twitter on Saturday.
Don Stewart, a senior aide to McConnell, said critics were
getting "hung up on process" while ignoring the problems of
Obamacare such as higher costs and limited choices.
"So you can get caught up in process, or you can focus on
the actual reality," Stewart said in an email on Sunday.
Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who has been
working on her own healthcare plan, said she was reaching out to
moderate Democrats to try to find common ground. She did not
criticize the working group's all-male make-up but said she
wanted to see a broader effort to replace Obama's 2010
"I would like to see us put together a bipartisan group to
solve this problem, of Democrats who acknowledge there are
problems with the current law, that it is not working well in
several states, and Republicans who also want to make sure that
we're not reducing coverage and we're giving flexibility,"
Collins said on ABC's "This Week."
Senators have questioned aspects of the House bill, which
would slash funding for Medicaid, the program that provides
insurance for the poor, and roll back much of its expansion
during the Obama administration.
It also would allow states to opt out of some existing
protections for people with pre-existing health conditions.
While insurers could not deny insurance because of such
conditions, they would be allowed to decide how much to charge.
Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, one of the most
moderate Democrats in the Senate, said his state "gets
absolutely slammed" in the House bill because it has a lot of
elderly residents and people with pre-existing conditions.
"I just want to work and sit down and try to get something
done, but no one's asked us," he said on CBS's "Face the Nation"
program. "Our congressional delegation says, 'don't worry, the
Senate will fix it.' And no one has asked any Democrat. And I am
the most centrist."
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said the White
House would not dictate the process.
"I think we want to let them do their work, let them work
this out. They are all very mature. They all know what is going
on. They all know the commitments we have made to the American
people to repeal and replace a failing program in Obamacare," he
said on the "Fox News Sunday" program.
(Additional reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Caren
Bohan and Paul Simao)