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 PaulOvernight Defense: Congress poised for busy week on nominations, defense bill | Trump to deliver Naval Academy commencement speech | Trump administration appeals decision to block suspected combatant's transfer Democrats mull audacious play to block Pompeo Overnight Defense: Trump steps up fight with California over guard deployment | Heitkamp is first Dem to back Pompeo for State | Dems question legality of Syria strikes 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 McConnellRepublicans divided over legislation protecting Mueller The Hill's Morning Report: Inside the Comey memos Democrats mull audacious play to block Pompeo 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 BluntMcCaskill outpaces GOP opponent by more than million GOP senators raise concerns about babies on Senate floor Some doubt McCarthy or Scalise will ever lead House GOP 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 JohnsonGOP senator: Congress needs ‘to move on’ from Russia probe GOP senator: ‘Way too early’ to talk about supporting Trump in 2020 IG report faults fired FBI official McCabe for leak to media 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 MurkowskiSenators press administration on mental health parity Overnight Energy: Watchdogs unveil findings on EPA, Interior controversies | GAO says EPA violated law with soundproof booth | IG says Zinke could have avoided charter flight | GOP chair probes Pruitt's four email addresses GOP fractures over push to protect Russia probe 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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