President Donald Trump vowed to drain the swamp in Washington, D.C. — and the snakes are biting back.
Across the aisle, establishment politicians are scrambling to protect their backsides instead of doing what the American people elected them to do… and it could derail the president’s healthcare reform again!
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After pushing a legislative centerpiece scuttling much of President Barack Obama’s healthcare law through the House — and past establihsment Republican objections — the next stop to repealing Obamacare is in the Senate.
And there, some Republicans are planning to kill it. Again.
Thursday’s 217-213 House passage — with 20 GOP defections — was preceded by several near-death experiences for the legislation, even though repealing Obama’s statute helped guide Trump’s presidential run and multitudes of GOP congressional campaigns.
And that was in a chamber Republicans control 238-193. Had just two additional Republicans voted “no,” the measure would have lost because bills need majorities to pass. Now, Republicans must try maneuvering the measure through a Senate terrain that is different politically and procedurally from the House.
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“We must manage expectations and remain focused on the art of the doable as we move forward,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, among several cautionary statements issued by Senate Republicans after the House vote.
The House bill would end the Obama law’s fines on people who don’t purchase policies and erase its taxes on health industry businesses and higher-earning people.
The measure would replace Obama’s federal subsidies for lower-income insurance buyers with tax credits geared to consumers’ ages. And it reform Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor and disabled, including ending extra federal payments 31 states are accepting to expand Medicaid to cover more people.
The House bill bars insurers from refusing policies to extremely ill people, and the bill includes billions of dollars to help those people.
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But those changes may never come, because no one has the courage to finally “drain the swamp.”
“I’ve already made clear that I don’t support the House bill as currently constructed,” said Ohio Sen. Rob Portman. He cited its Medicaid reforms, including for treating people with drug problems, and said he’d make sure that “those who are impacted by this epidemic can continue to receive treatment.”
In March, Portman joined three other GOP senators in opposing Medicaid cuts in an early version of the House legislation. In a letter to McConnell, they wrote that the measure “does not provide stability and certainty for individuals and families” who use the program.
Maine Sen. Susan Collins said the House bill poses “more questions than answers about its consequences.” She said there should be “no barrier for coverage” for people with pre-existing medical conditions and that the House’s tax credits “do not adequately take into account income levels” or regional differences in health costs.
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Collins and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski have opposed cutting federal money for Planned Parenthood. The House bill blocks federal payments for a year to the organization, which provides thousands of abortions every year.
Other senators are also seeking changes. No. 3 Senate GOP leader John Thune of South Dakota is working on a plan to skew the bill’s tax subsidies more toward lower-income people.
States that did not expand Medicaid under Obama’s law are looking for additional funding for their programs. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said he would not back a healthcare bill “that rewards people for taking Medicaid expansion at the expense of those who did not.”
The Republican edge in the Senate is just 52-48. Using special rules, the Senate could pass its version of the bill with just 50 votes and rely on Vice President Mike Pence to break a tie. But that means they can lose just two GOP senators assuming Democrats uniformly oppose scrapping Obama’s signature domestic achievement.
The Associated Press contributed to this article