Republicans criticized the bill authored by Finance Chairman Max BaucusMax BaucusFive reasons why Tillerson is likely to get through Business groups express support for Branstad nomination The mysterious sealed opioid report fuels speculation MORE (D-Mont.), labeling it a government takeover of healthcare. “This is a stunning assault on liberty,” said Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who decried the bill’s requirement that most people obtain health insurance.
Democrats touted the bill as a key mechanism for extending healthcare coverage to tens of millions of people while bringing down the growth in spending.
Finance Committee ranking member Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGOP senator: Trump budget chief could face confirmation 'problems' Jeff Sessions will protect life Justice, FBI to be investigated over Clinton probes MORE (R-Iowa) led a chorus of Republicans who complained that things were moving too fast.
“Despite your dedication and commitment to this important endeavor, I have a feeling that the White House and the leadership on your side grew impatient and, through artificial deadlines, forced us to where we are today,” Grassley said.
Grassley also complained the he and Sens. Mike EnziMike EnziDem senator: DeVos ‘sends shivers down the spine’ Trump Education pick: States should decide on allowing guns in schools Schumer puts GOP on notice over ObamaCare repeal MORE (Wyo.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine), the three Republicans who tried to negotiate a deal with Baucus and two other Democrats on the panel, were never given assurances that a deal they struck would be honored by Senate Democratic leaders or President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaSpicer trends worldwide on Twitter after first WH briefing Trump inaugural TV ratings lower than Obama, Reagan: report Women's marches draw estimated 3M people across US MORE.
The day also featured some intrigue. Snowe, the only Republican viewed as a possible supporter of the bill, backed her GOP colleagues in some of their complaints while leaving the door open to voting for the measure at the end of the process.
“This is not a solution in search of a problem,” she said of the bill.
Snowe seconded Grassley’s complaints about “arbitrary deadlines” imposed on the bipartisan talks and urged that committee members have access to a complete text of the bill and final cost estimates before moving ahead.
“We are far from the finish line,” said Snowe, who offered numerous amendments to the bill. One of Snowe’s key amendments would establish a “trigger” to establish a government-run public option insurance program in states that lack choices among private insurers. This potential compromise has received serious consideration by the White House.
But Snowe also stepped in to defend Baucus’s bill against accusations that it amounted to a “government takeover.”
Democrats, meanwhile, tempered their praise with serious criticisms of Baucus’s bill. Not one of the 11 Democrats who spoke explicitly promised to vote for the measure, though Sens. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.), who had also tried to reach a deal with Baucus, Grassley, Snowe and Enzi, offered the most positive statements.
Several Democratic senators, including Bingaman, Charles SchumerCharles SchumerDemocrats and the boycott of Trump's inauguration The Hill's 12:30 Report Why Democrats fear a successful inaugural address from Trump MORE (N.Y.), Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowLawmakers join women's marches in DC and nationwide Hillary gives Bernie cool reception at Trump inaugural lunch Overnight Finance: Scoop – Trump team eyes dramatic spending cuts | Treasury pick survives stormy hearing MORE (Mich.), Maria CantwellMaria CantwellWhat we learned from Rick Perry's confirmation hearing Perry regrets saying he would abolish Energy Department Dems seek more vetting for Trump nominees before hearings MORE (Wash.) and Robert MenendezRobert MenendezCarson likely to roll back housing equality rule Live coverage: Tillerson's hearing for State Booker to join Foreign Relations Committee MORE (N.J.), complained the Baucus’s bill does not include a public option of any kind. The committee will vote on an amendment to add a public option, but opposition from all Republicans and skepticism from Baucus and Conrad, at least, make the chances of passage slim.
Sen. Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerObama to preserve torture report in presidential papers Lobbying world Overnight Tech: Senators place holds on FCC commissioner MORE (W.Va.), the only Democrat to openly threaten to vote against the bill unless it is significantly changed, did not speak but is slated to offer a statement later Tuesday.
But Sen. Ron WydenRon WydenLawmakers join women's marches in DC and nationwide Senate confirms first nominees of Trump era Senate gears up for battle over Trump's CIA pick MORE (D-Ore.) offered strong hints that his vote could be hard to come by. Wyden has his own healthcare reform bill, co-sponsored with Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), that he continues to maintain would do more to contain costs and offer people a wider array of health insurance options.
“Despite the exhaustive efforts of the chairman, the committee now finds itself short on both real reform and Democrats and Republicans having their name on this mark and this legislation,” Wyden said. “My vote in committee is going to depend to a great extent on whether we can get on that real road to meaningful reform and bipartisanship.
“The chairman’s mark,” Wyden said, “does some very good things, yet there is still a lot to do to place the country on the road to real reform.”
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the first draft of Baucus’s bill would extend insurance coverage to 29 million at a cost of $774 billion over 10 years but also reduce the federal budget deficit by $49 billion during that time.
In an attempt to address concerns expressed by Democrats and by Snowe, however, Baucus has increased the cost of his bill by an as-yet-undetermined amount in order to extend coverage to more people and exempt more people from new taxes. Baucus said the bill still would reduce the deficit.