As the Senate health insurance reform effort remains on life support, Wyoming’s two senators are pushing their Republican colleagues to get on board with the effort.
Senator John Barrasso literally burned the midnight oil on Wednesday when he invited a large group of Republican senators into his office for last minute negotiations on their party’s health insurance reform plan. Barrasso emerged late and was the last to address the thirty or so reporters who huddled outside for hours.
“Well thank you all for staying around, as you know we had a very involved meeting.”
During their meeting news broke that Senator John McCain had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. That halted the meeting as a senator lead the group in prayer. Barrasso says it was a tough blow.
The news of McCain’s health is not only tough for most – if not everyone – in Washington to hear, it also makes the job of passing a health bill tougher for Barrasso and other Republican leaders. That’s because they need 50 votes to even start debate on the bill. Barrasso said while they still don’t know what the final package will look like, he’s optimistic they can fulfill their seven-year-old campaign promise to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.
“In terms of the substance of the meeting, lengthy productive discussion on areas of agreement and areas where we still have work to do. We still do have work to do to get to a vote of 50, but people are committed to continuing that work to finding a solution to help the American people.”
But other Republicans say Barrasso and other GOP leaders messed up the effort from the beginning by not holding open hearings and crafting the legislation behind closed doors. Tennessee Republican Bob Corker says he’ll vote to move Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s bill forward, but he still thinks it stinks.
“It’s taken on sort of a bizarre bidding process. I’ll move to precede anything that Mitch wants to proceed to, but I fear that it's beginning to lack coherency…again it’s beginning to feel bizarre. Much like how Obamacare was put together where desperate things are added and put in. Hopefully, that will calm down.”
Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins is refusing to support the measure. She says it’s time to go back to square one and sit down with Democrats and hold actual hearings.
“I’ve been very straightforward about where I stand. I really think at this point, particularly with the divisions in our conference, then we should go back to the normal order, have hearings on the problems with the Affordable Care Act, which there are many. And see if we can get bipartisan bills reported from the Health Committee and the Finance Committee.”
While many Republicans are wavering, mostly because they don’t have specifics yet, Wyoming’s senior senator, Mike Enzi, told his colleagues on the Senate floor that he’s fully behind the effort.
“This isn’t just about politics this is about real people and whether or not they can afford an insurance premium that is in some cases higher than their rent or their mortgage payments each month. Even before its passage, my Republican colleagues and I have talked about the danger that Obamacare posed to private insurance markets.”
With no final product, Enzi still says the GOP has to keep its campaign pledge.
“We’re striking at the heart of Obamacare by removing its mandates and taxes while putting Medicaid on a more sustainable footing. You may have read a little something about the challenges of moving a healthcare bill forward. But the alternative is to do what our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have done for seven years, and watch Obamacare crater. We don’t think that’s the right thing to do.”
The House already passed its controversial bill and now many vulnerable Republicans in that chamber are wondering if they walked the plank for nothing. Congresswoman Liz Cheney is not in that group. She says Republicans in the Senate need to act and adds that she supports President Trump’s call for an outright repeal vote next week that doesn’t include a replacement bill.
“Look, I think it's really important if we... I would be in favor of a repeal bill that gives us a time frame within which to put a replacement into place. But we don't have any choice, it's not like we can just stay with the status quo. We've got to do something, and if that's what we got the votes to do, I could support it and I'd like to see it happen.”
The Senate is expected to vote on the health proposal as early as Tuesday – even if no one in Washington seems to know what that bill will actually be.