Week ahead: Senate work on ObamaCare repeal intensifies

Week ahead: Senate work on ObamaCare repeal intensifies
© Greg Nash

The GOP Senate's work on legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare is expected to heat up in the coming week.

Senators only have two weeks left in the work period before the Fourth of July recess, which leaders have eyed as a target for holding a vote on a bill. But there are still significant policy hurdles that remain.

GOP leaders insist the divide between moderate Republicans and conservatives is surmountable. They've been talking about repealing ObamaCare for seven years, and publicly say they can see the finish line.

There will be more meetings in the coming week, but the discussions have been behind closed doors so far, leading to grumbling from Democrats, as well as some Republicans like Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRand Paul's neighbor sentenced to 30 days in prison over assault Dems best GOP as Scalise returns for annual charity baseball game The Hill's Morning Report — Can the economy help Republicans buck political history in 2018? MORE (R-Ky.), and outside groups about transparency.

Some senators say time is not on their side as they try to win votes, and they believe Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCongress had a good couple of weeks — now let's keep it going McCarthy: 'The Mueller investigation has got to stop' McConnell: Mueller 'ought to wrap it up' MORE (R-Ky.) could simply decide it's time to move and force a vote.

"It won't be appreciably better a month from today than it is today. At some point to get this done, you're going to get it done in the last 10 days before the vote," Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntErnst, Fischer to square off for leadership post Facebook gives 500 pages of answers to lawmakers' data privacy questions Community development impact remains clear with NMTC post-tax reform MORE (R-Mo.) said

But the disagreements aren't minor. Senators are still debating how quickly to phase out federal funds for Medicaid expansion and how deeply to cut the program, and lawmakers say they have still not seen legislative text of a bill.

Instead, they've been sending bits and pieces of the bill to the Congressional Budget Office individually.

"I think we're making progress but they're very difficult issues. Leadership hasn't written a bill yet," Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSenate probes FBI's heavy-handed use of redactions to obstruct congressional investigators Hillicon Valley: DHS gets new cyber chief | White House warns lawmakers not to block ZTE deal | White nationalists find home on Google Plus | Comcast outbids Disney for Fox | Anticipation builds for report on FBI Clinton probe Graham jokes about Corker: GOP would have to be organized to be a cult MORE (R-Wis.) said.

And pressure is mounting. Liberal groups are targeting swing Republican votes.

One of the lawmakers on their list, Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Energy: Spending bill targets Pruitt | Ryan not paying 'close attention' to Pruitt controversies | Yellowstone park chief learned of dismissal through press release Senate committee targets Pruitt scandals in spending bill GOP chairman seeks ‘sufficient’ funding for EPA watchdog office MORE (R-Alaska) has already expressed concerns. Asked Thursday if she could spport the emerging GOP bill, Murkowski said: "I just truly do not know."

It's a daunting path ahead, with Republicans still needing to finish writing the bill, get a CBO score, and secure 50 votes.

Outside of the repeal bill, lawmakers have a number of hearings on health issues in the coming week.

On Wednesday, a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska native Affairs will look at legislation to improve the Indian Health Service.

There will also be more budget hearings.

Tuesday, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb will testify before a Senate Appropriations subpanel on his agency's fiscal 2018 budget request.

On Wednesday, a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee will hear from Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin on his department's fiscal 2018 budget request

On Thursday, a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the fiscal 2018 budget request for the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Francis S. Collins, the NIH director will testify.

President Trump's proposed budget would cut $5.8 billion for the agency, a plan that has already encountered sharp opposition in Congress.


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