The House bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare is facing growing opposition from Senate Republicans.
The plan, titled the American Health Care Act, is taking fire from both conservative and moderate factions of the Senate GOP caucus — underscoring the legislation's perilous path in the upper chamber.
Republicans hold 52 seats, a narrow majority, in the Senate. So GOP leadership can only afford to lose two Republican votes if all Democrats and Independents oppose the measure, which would then require Vice President Pence to break the tie.
Three days after the release of the House bill, GOP senators are signaling that it faces a nearly impossible climb in its current form.
Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Colin Powell's death highlights risks for immunocompromised The Senate confirmation process is broken — Senate Democrats can fix it Australian politician on Cruz, vaccines: 'We don't need your lectures, thanks mate' MORE (R-Texas) expressed skepticism Wednesday that the measure would be able to win enough support among Senate Republicans to pass.
"The House bill is a beginning, but the House bill as drafted, I do not believe, would pass the United States Senate," the conservative firebrand told reporters.
He said the House bill doesn't do enough to lower the cost of insurance and pointed out "significant challenges" stemming from its provision to end Medicaid expansion.
The House bill dramatically restructures the Medicaid program overall by capping federal payments, and in 2020 it would cut off the extra federal dollars ObamaCare sent to states to cover more low-income residents.
Cruz made his comments after Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulVaccine 'resisters' are a real problem Democrats fret as longshot candidates pull money, attention Journalist Dave Levinthal discusses 'uptick' in congressional stock trade violations MORE (R-Ky.) told reporters that the House bill, which he has dubbed “ObamaCare lite," will be “dead on arrival” in the upper chamber.
“I think the White House, the administration and the president understand that there's enough conservatives that they can't pass ObamaCare lite,” Paul told CNN’s “New Day” on Wednesday.
The Kentucky Republican is teaming up with members of the House Freedom Caucus to roll out an alternative repeal bill that mirrors 2015 legislation supported by conservatives.
But that measure, which goes further than the current proposal, would likely alienate the moderate GOP senators who are already wary of the House legislation.
Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenators ask Biden administration to fund program that helps people pay heating bills McConnell gets GOP wake-up call Republicans are today's Dixiecrats MORE (R-Maine) said Wednesday that she’s “not crazy” about the current repeal measure.
"I do not think it will be well received in the Senate,” she told Yahoo News.
Collins is one of a handful of centrist Republicans who are concerned about what happens to ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion.
The Maine Republican, who voted against the 2015 repeal bill, said she has "concerns" about the Medicaid language, as well as the provision to cut off Planned Parenthood funding.
Any combination of the roughly eight senators who’ve expressed reluctance about the House bill is more than enough to defeat it.
But House Republicans are moving forward despite the looming showdown with the Senate.
Two House committees spent hours marking up their portions of the bill on Wednesday, with Republicans rejecting a slew of amendments from Democrats but offering no changes of their own.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) defended the process, saying, "We've got an open legislative process under way right now."
But multiple GOP senators are signaling that they feel the House is moving too quickly, with Collins and Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - House debt vote today; Biden struggles to unite Arkansas legislature splits Little Rock in move that guarantees GOP seats The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate nears surprise deal on short-term debt ceiling hike MORE (R-Ark.) as the latest to argue that lawmakers should slow down.
“I think we’re moving a little bit too quickly on healthcare reform,” Cotton told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “This is a big issue.”
Cotton noted he was reviewing the bill and said he "would much sooner get healthcare reform right than get it fast."
Top Republicans in both chambers are arguing their colleagues will eventually come around. They say GOP lawmakers have just two choices: support the House bill or be seen as supporting ObamaCare, which they’ve pledged for years to repeal.
“Here, I guess, is my main point. As Republicans, we have a choice: we can act now or we can keep fiddling around and squander this opportunity to repeal ObamaCare and begin a new chapter for the American people,” Rep. Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyDemocratic retirements could make a tough midterm year even worse Yellen confident of minimum global corporate tax passage in Congress 136 countries agree to deal on global minimum tax MORE (R-Texas) told reporters this week.
Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair GOP rallies around Manchin, Sinema McConnell gets GOP wake-up call MORE (S.D.) — the No. 3 Senate Republican — echoed Brady this week at a leadership press conference, saying, “It’s going to be either a vote for the status quo or a vote to repeal this and to move to a better way ... and I think that’s the way it’s going to be framed.”
The hardline comes even as the White House launches an all-out charm offensive to sell the bill. Pence is making the rounds on Capitol Hill, while key conservatives are heading to the White House.
After meeting with Cruz this week, members of the House Freedom Caucus are expected to huddle with Trump.
A caucus source told The Hill that members of the group, which panned the White House-backed proposal, have been invited to the White House next week for a pizza dinner and policy discussion at the bowling alley.
And President Trump appears to be signaling that he’s willing to make a deal, tweeting that the House legislation is “out for review and negotiation.”
It’s unclear if Senate Republicans will amend the bill once it passes the House. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money — Democrats tee up Senate spending battles with GOP The Memo: Powell ended up on losing side of GOP fight Treasury to use extraordinary measures despite debt ceiling hike MORE (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that he hopes to bring up the House version, urging his GOP colleagues to start reviewing it.
Asked about the potential for changes, Sen. John CornynJohn CornynCornyn raises more than M for Senate GOP Is the Biden administration afraid of trade? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit MORE (R-Texas) told The Hill, “We'll see what the House passes."
But multiple Senate Republicans said they expect the lower chamber’s measure will undergo changes before it reaches them.
"It is going to continue to develop,” Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRepublicans would need a promotion to be 'paper tigers' Defense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals Blinken pressed to fill empty post overseeing 'Havana syndrome' MORE (R-Fla.) told reporters. “There's no way the bill that is before us now will be what it looks like when it passes the House."
Cruz said Wednesday he’s in “active negotiations” with GOP lawmakers, as well the administration, on potential changes to the bill. He and his wife are slated to have dinner at the White House on Wednesday night.
If senators change the legislation once it reaches the Senate, it would have to bounce back to the House for a second vote before being sent to Trump's desk.
Collins stressed that she considered the House bill a “work in progress.”
"The bill that was released this week is far better than the bill that we were briefed on the week before,” she said. “So, who knows maybe it’ll eventually get better. And thus will be better received in the Senate.”
Peter Sullivan contributed.