U.S. senators expected to vote on health care debate

By Allison Kite, July 24, 2017

U.S. Senators are facing pressure from chamber leadership and President Donald Trump as they prepare to vote Tuesday on whether to debate a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the signature health care law passed under former President Barack Obama.

Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed senators Monday to vote Tuesday on a motion to bring a replacement bill up for debate in the Senate. McConnell said in a statement Monday that senators would vote to begin an open amendment process. On Twitter, Trump called the upcoming vote senators’ “last chance to do the right thing” and urged them to vote for the motion to debate and end the “Obamacare nightmare” in an appearance with families who have been negatively affected by the Affordable Care Act.

“There’s been enough talk and no action,” Trump said. “Now is the time for action.”

The widely-anticipated vote would bring health care up for debate in the Senate. It comes after McConnell struggled to get enough votes for a Senate replacement bill that failed to get enough votes for a debate last week with the help of Sen. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican. He and fellow Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts split on the bill, with Roberts favoring the legislation. Moran then came out in support of an effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement at hand.

If senators vote to bring a bill up for debate on the Senate floor, it could be amended by both Democrats and Republicans. In his statement, McConnell said voting to proceed would “kick off a robust debate in which Senators from all parties can represent the views of their constituents.”

On the Senate floor Monday, he criticized the ACA, saying it brought rising costs and fewer options.

Promises made

Both McConnell and Trump emphasized the promises Republicans have made to their constituents as they pushed senators to move forward with repealing and replacing the law. Republicans have long criticized the ACA and run for election by promising to dismantle it, a task that has become increasingly challenging as the law has gained popularity in polls.

McConnell told fellow senators that he had made a promise to his constituents to vote for alternatives to the ACA.

“So when that vote comes, I will keep my commitment to vote to move beyond the failures of Obamacare — I will vote yes on the motion to proceed,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “I would urge all of our colleagues to do the same.”

Trump called on Republicans in remarks Monday afternoon to move forward with the effort, offering numerous reminders that Republicans have been campaigning on a promise to repeal and replace the law for years. He called the vote senators’ “last chance to keep their promise.”

“We as a party must fulfill that solemn promise to the voters of this country, to repeal and replace — what they’ve been saying for the last seven years,” Trump said.

In his appearance, Trump took a hard-line stance in favor of moving forward on the debate and criticized Democrats for not supporting the effort.

“Any senator who votes against starting debate is telling Americans that you are fine with the Obamacare nightmare,” Trump said.

Kansas delegation

Both Kansas senators have criticized the Affordable Care Act and sought ways to repeal or replace it, but it was unclear Monday how they might vote on the motion Tuesday.

Moran and Republican Sen. Mike Lee helped sink a motion last week to bring a new Senate version of the bill up for debate. Moran had told constituents less than two weeks before that in Western Kansas that he could not support a previous version of the Senate bill and that he would evaluate health bills based on whether they made premiums more affordable, protected those with pre-existing conditions, protected rural health care and paid Medicaid providers adequately without inhibiting job creation or punishing Kansas for not expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. That version of the bill did not meet those requirements, he said.

Roberts, however, supported the bill that failed to get enough votes last week. He said in a statement released July 13, he supported the Senate bill’s appropriations to support Medicaid and its tax credits, provisions for home-based services recipients on Medicaid and money to address the opioid crisis.

“To amend and improve the bill, you have vote to get on the bill, which is the only way to begin the process of addressing Obamacare’s failures and making further improvements on behalf of our nation’s health care,” he said in the statement.

Kansas healthcare advocates have been opposed to House and Senate’s efforts to replace the bill. In a release Monday, David Jordan, executive director of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas criticized the Senate bill’s provision that would fund Medicaid through per-capita funding caps. He said that would “cripple” Kansas’ budget and cause particular harm to Kansas because it did not expand Medicaid and will not get as much funding because of that. According to an analysis published by the group, Kansas would lose more than $900 million between 2020 and 2026 under the Senate bill.


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