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GOP senators reveal health bill; Dems say it's as bad as House version

By Eric DuVall and Doug G. Ware
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GOP senators reveal health bill; Dems say it's as bad as House version
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks out against the Republican health care bill at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday. Republican Senators unveiled their health care bill to replace the Affordable Care Act. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

June 22 (UPI) -- Senate Republicans on Thursday unveiled a new healthcare bill that would kill much of former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act -- including the mandate that all Americans buy coverage and many government subsidies to help them pay for it.

The Senate bill revealed Thursday also sharply cuts Medicaid subsidies to states -- one of the main ways the ACA grew coverage by 20 million people since it was first enacted in 2010.

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Unlike the House version of the healthcare bill, the Senate's preserves a system of tax breaks for low-income Americans to help them purchase insurance, though the amount of those subsidies and the number of people eligible is less than the ACA provides.

The House version of the bill scrapped income-based tax incentives in favor of a blanket tax credit for individuals that's based on their age.

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Democrats attacked the Republican proposal and all 48 senators in the caucus have pledged to vote against it.

"Simply put, this bill will result in higher costs, less care and millions of Americans will lose their health insurance, particularly through Medicaid," Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a reaction speech Thursday. "It's every bit as bad as the House bill. In some ways it's even worse.

"The way this bill cuts health care is heartless. The president said the House bill was mean. The Senate bill may be meaner."

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"We should take this pathetic health care bill, throw it in the garbage can and do something that will work for ordinary Americans instead," Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said on his Twitter page Thursday.

Democrats, and even some Republicans, have expressed frustration with how the Senate bill was drafted. Instead of the traditional process of committee hearings and debate, the 142-page bill was written with only a select group of Republican senators privy to negotiations about what could spark the most politically contentious vote before next year's midterm elections.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has pledged to hold a vote on the Senate bill before the chamber adjourns for the July 4 recess. Whether it will pass is far from certain.

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"When legislation does come to the floor, it will present Senate Democrats with another opportunity to do what's right for the American people," McConnell said in a statement Thursday. "They can choose to keep standing by as their failing law continues to collapse and hurt more Americans, but I hope they will join with us instead

With a 52-seat majority, Republicans can afford to lose only two votes, as Vice President Mike Pence breaks a 50-50 tie.

"Seven years ago, Democrats imposed Obamacare on our country. They said it would lower costs. It didn't," McConnell said. "Because Obamacare isn't working, by nearly any measure it has failed, and no amount of 11th hour reality-denying or buck-passing by Democrats is going to change the fact that more Americans are going to get hurt unless we do something.

"Republicans believe we have a responsibility to act -- and we are."

"I hope Mitch McConnell listened to what the demonstrators had to say outside his office today," Sanders said, referring to a large gathering of disabled demonstrators on Capitol Hill who opposed the bill Thursday.

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Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has already indicated that he will not support the bill in its current form because he said it doesn't go far enough to uproot the ACA, also known as Obamacare -- the same reason many conservatives didn't support the GOP's American Health Care Act earlier this year.

While the bill may be too liberal for some senators, for other Republicans representing states where governors expanded Medicaid, the idea of deep funding cuts presents what could be a devastating political calculation. Home-state governors, including Republicans, have lobbied to avoid the kind of Medicaid cuts the GOP Congress is proposing.

Though the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan scorekeeper on Capitol Hill, has yet to evaluate the Senate bill, its analysis of the House version found 23 million Americans would lose health coverage over a decade if the GOP bill was passed.

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