Senate Republican leaders released on Thursday a revised plan to dismantle the Obamacare law, but it drew criticism from senators on both sides of the political divide within the Republican party, indicating a treacherous path for the bill.
The bill played to the party’s disparate factions by letting insurers sell cheap, bare-bones policies while retaining taxes on the wealthy.
But the immediate outcry illustrated the difficult political terrain that U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell must navigate. He is under pressure by President Donald Trump to pass a healthcare bill and make good on Republicans’ seven-year mission to gut Democratic former President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement.
“The American people deserve better than the pain of Obamacare. They deserve better care. And the time to deliver that to them is next week,” McConnell said.
In addition to the criticism from some senators, a major hospital association and one large insurer said the measure falls short in critical areas.
With Democrats united against it, McConnell cannot afford to lose more than two Republican senators to win passage. But moderate Susan Collins and conservative Rand Paul voiced opposition to even bringing the new plan up for debate.
Several senators said they had concerns about the legislation, particularly its Medicaid cuts, including Shelley Moore Capito, Rob Portman and John McCain. And two other Republican senators, Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, complicated matters by announcing an alternative plan.
McConnell, a skillful tactician who was forced two weeks ago to scrub a planned vote on an earlier version opposed by both moderates and hard-line conservatives in his party, has planned for a vote on the retooled bill next week.
The continuing lack of consensus among Republicans on what to do with Obamacare after calling for its demise since 2010 shows that it is no sure thing that Trump’s party will be able to get the job done.
Healthcare is Trump’s first major legislative initiative. Failure would call into question his party’s ability to govern despite controlling both chambers of Congress and the White House.