Concerned GOP senators meet with Trump after delayed healthcare vote

"We're going to talk and we're going to see what we can do," President Donald Trump said at the White House meeting Tuesday.
By Doug G. Ware and Allen Cone  |  June 27, 2017 at 5:48 PM
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June 27 (UPI) -- After news Tuesday that Senate Majority Leader Mitchell McConnell delayed a procedural vote on Republicans' healthcare reform bill, GOP senators visited President Donald Trump in the White House for an emergency closed-door meeting.

The group of Republican senators boarded buses and motored to the White House for the 4 p.m. meeting -- at which the president talked about getting more aggressive in getting the Affordable Care Act replaced with something else.

"We have really no choice but to solve the situation," Trump said at the start of the meeting. "We're going to talk and we're going to see what we can do ... we're getting very close."

The vote's delay, and the meeting, was spurred Tuesday by a familiar problem on Capitol Hill -- not enough Republicans willing to vote for the healthcare proposal, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act. Weeks ago, House Republicans scrapped the American Health Care Act without even a vote because they didn't have the support to get it passed.

Then this month, Senate Republicans drafted their own version, the BCRA, to replace the ACA. While somewhat different than the AHCA, the Senate's proposal has received virtually the same chilly reception from lawmakers concerned about the millions of Americans the law will leave uninsured.

Many of the Republican senators who met with Trump Tuesday are hesitant to support the new plan, and sought answers from the president.

Trump, however, has been greatly optimistic about the Senate's efforts on the new bill.

"This will be great if we get it done," he said at Tuesday's meeting. "If we don't get it done, it's just going to be something that we're not going to like."

The new proposal, which was crafted in secret by McConnell and GOP staffers, worries some conservative and moderate Republicans in the upper chamber -- particularly because of the 22 million people it would strip insurance from over the next decade, according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.

McConnell said Tuesday he wants to make changes to the bill and hold a vote after senators return from the July 4 holiday recess.

"We will not be on the bill this week, but we will still be working to get at least 50 people in a comfortable place," he said earlier Tuesday at a news conference.

"Legislation of this complexity almost always takes longer than anybody hopes. We're optimistic we're going to get the result that's better than the status quo."

The Senate is scheduled to reconvene on July 11 for three weeks before another break in August. A senior Senate Republican aide told CNN that the plan is to reach a compromise bill by the end of this week then give members the full week to examine it.

"We are going to fight the bill tooth and nail and we have a darn good chance of defeating it -- a week from now, a month from now, a year from now," Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said at a Democratic news conference.

The meeting with Trump Tuesday was partly held to develop a strategy to find sufficient support for the bill. With all Democrats opposing the bill, the Republicans can lose only two of their 52 members' votes.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, became the fifth senator this week to say he would not favor even a procedural vote to advance the proposal. Previously four Republican senators -- Susan Collins, Rand Paul, Dean Heller and Ron Johnson -- all said they would vote against the motion. Also expressing concerns with the bill are Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, Cory Gardner and Bill Cassidy.

Sen. Marco Rubio has sought input from Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who met with Vice President Mike Pence and McConnell to discuss the matter.

Sen. Ted Cruz has expressed opposition to the bill as it stands because it doesn't go far enough in repealing the ACA, known as Obamacare. After meeting with McConnell on Tuesday, he told CNN it's "a work in progress."

Opposition grew Monday after the Congressional Budget Office released its new analysis of the Republican senators' plan. That study estimates the plan will leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026 compared to the ACA. It will also cut Medicaid by $772 billion and reduce tax credits and selected coverage provisions by $408 billion in that time period.

The House approved legislation on May 4 in which 23 million more would be uninsured.

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