GOP senators distance themselves from House ObamaCare repeal bill
© Greg Nash

Republican senators quickly distanced themselves from a House-passed ObamaCare repeal and replacement bill after a new analysis of the legislation was released on Wednesday.

The American Health Care Act (AHCA) would result in 23 million more uninsured Americans over a decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office analysis. The CBO also found that in states that would let insurers charge sick people more, some could be priced out of being able to afford insurance.

Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary Oregon Dem top recipient of 2018 marijuana industry money, study finds MORE (R-Nev.) — who was opposed to previous versions of the House bill — said again Wednesday he is "opposed to the American Health Care Act in its current form."

"The AHCA is a first step, but not the solution; now the Senate is doing its own work to put forth its own ideas that could work for states like Nevada," Heller, considered one of the most vulnerable Republican senators up for reelection next year, said in a statement.


Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who has offered an alternative bill with GOP Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats On unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Congress must step up to protect Medicare home health care MORE (R-Maine), added, "Congress's focus must be to lower premiums with coverage which passes the Jimmy Kimmel Test. The ACHA does not. I am working with Senate colleagues to do so."

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderDems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters Congress must move forward on measure dealing with fentanyl GOP advances rules change to speed up confirmation of Trump nominees MORE (R-Tenn.), who is deeply involved in the Senate's discussions, reiterated after the CBO analysis what he wants in the Senate bill, including lower premiums and giving individuals with pre-existing conditions access to insurance.

“It’s informative to know the estimated impact of the House health care bill – but the Senate is writing its own bill, which will receive its own score from the Congressional Budget Office before the Senate votes," he said.

Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottSenate approves border bill that prevents shutdown Senate passes bill to make lynching a federal crime Partnerships paving the way to sustain and support Historically Black Colleges and Universities MORE (R-S.C.) didn't even mention the House-passed bill in his statement but argued that ObamaCare is "collapsing" and the Senate will work on its own proposal.

"My Republican colleagues and I in the Senate continue our work on a new health care bill that emphasizes lower costs for families and access to high quality care for all," he said.

Collins, citing the CBO analysis, said the House bill would increase the number of uninsured Americans and "disproportionately affect older, lower-income Americans."

"I urge my colleagues to support the comprehensive ACA replacement plan Senator Cassidy and I introduced that will allow more Americans to obtain health insurance, preserve significant consumer protections, and help moderate the cost of health care," she said.

Cassidy and Collins introduced a bill earlier this year that would allow states to keep ObamaCare if they wanted to. They've also been meeting with a group of moderate Republican and Democratic senators to see if they could come up with a bipartisan healthcare bill.

The House passed the ACHA roughly three weeks ago without a CBO analysis on the version of the bill lawmakers voted on. Senate Republicans have met several times a week since then to look for a path forward.

GOP senators downplayed the importance of the CBO analysis, stressing that they are crafting their own proposal that is expected to gut the House legislation.

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzEl Chapo's lawyer fires back at Cruz: 'Ludicrous' to suggest drug lord will pay for wall Democrats have a chance of beating Trump with Julian Castro on the 2020 ticket Poll shows competitive matchup if O’Rourke ran for Senate again MORE (R-Texas), who is part of a Senate GOP healthcare working group, told reporters that the Senate's proposal will be "significantly different."

"We're focused on how to solve the underlying problem and not spending a great deal of time dwelling on one scoring estimate for a proposal that's not going to be the underlying bill," he told reporters on Wednesday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Trump should beware the 'clawback' Congress Juan Williams: America needs radical solutions MORE (R-Ky.) made a similar prebuttal from the Senate floor, saying the CBO score is only "a technical, procedural step" that would repeat "things we already know."

"Whatever CBO says ... this much is absolutely clear, the status quo under ObamaCare is completely unacceptable," he said.

Republican senators have been using the Senate floor, as well as weekly leadership press conferences, to stress the need to fulfill a yearslong campaign pledge to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) added after the CBO analysis was released that "it's no secret ObamaCare is collapsing under its own weight."

"Families need real relief now from the limited choices and skyrocketing costs of the failed law. Doing nothing is not an option. The Senate is working now to build on the efforts in the House to make our health care system more affordable and accessible for everyone," he said in a statement.

McConnell will need to win over at least 50 of the Senate's 52 Republicans and could need to lean on Vice President Pence to break a tie to get an ObamaCare repeal bill through the Senate. No Democrats are expected to vote for the bill.

Senate Republicans want to vote before the August recess, giving them roughly two months to bring up a bill.

"I don't know how we get to 50 [votes] at the moment," McConnell told Reuters on Wednesday. "But that's the goal. And exactly what the composition of that [bill] is I'm not going to speculate about because it serves no purpose."  

Democrats quickly launched their attack in the wake of the new CBO score. Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyCongress closer to forcing Trump’s hand on Saudi support House passes bill to end US support for Saudi war in Yemen This week: Border deal remains elusive as shutdown looms MORE (D-Conn.) argued that the analysis is "directly relevant," pushing back against GOP efforts to distance themselves from the House bill.  

"The Senate product, if it ever emerges from these secret meetings, will simply be a variant of the House bill," Murphy told reporters during a quickly organized press conference with Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats National emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration MORE (D-N.Y.) and other senators.

No Democrats are expected to support the effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

But GOP Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCongress closer to forcing Trump’s hand on Saudi support Democrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Warren: Officials have duty ‘to invoke 25th amendment’ if they think Trump is unfit MORE (S.C.) argued in the wake of the CBO analysis that allowing ObamaCare to collapse and then work with Democrats to replace it might be "the most effective path forward."

"After Obamacare collapses, we should challenge Democrats to work with us to fix the mess they created," he said on Twitter.

According to the CBO analysis, while insurers could withdraw from ObamaCare's market place, overall there is "anticipated to cause sufficient demand for insurance by enough people...for the market to be stable in most areas." 

As news of the CBO analysis broke, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) was targeting Democratic Sens. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyGOP wants to pit Ocasio-Cortez against Democrats in the Senate Biden speaking to Dems on Capitol Hill as 2020 speculation mounts: report GOP senators: Trump should not declare border emergency during State of the Union MORE (Pa.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction MORE (N.D.) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterHow the border deal came together GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration Border talks stall as another shutdown looms MORE (Mont.) over their support for ObamaCare.

The three senators are part of a group of 10 Democrats up for reelection in states won by Trump.