Cruz, McConnell huddle with healthcare vote looming
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGroup aiming to draft Beto O’Rourke unveils first 2020 video Howard Dean looking for a 'younger, newer' Democratic nominee in 2020 Congress can stop the war on science MORE (R-Texas) huddled in Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGraham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies Senate GOP eyes 'nuclear option' for Trump nominees next week Taiwan’s President Tsai should be invited to address Congress MORE's office on Tuesday as GOP leadership searches for votes on its bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

Cruz said after the powwow that he and the Kentucky Republican are having "productive conversations," but his focus remains on lowering premiums.

"There are a host of specific reforms that the working group has been discussing for five months now, and we continue to discuss those various reforms," Cruz told reporters, emerging from McConnell's office after roughly 45 minutes.

Pressed if he's still a "no" on the Senate's healthcare legislation, he added that the bill "remains a work in progress."


GOP leadership wants to vote on their bill this week, but is still several votes short of the simple majority needed to pass the measure.

With 52 seats, McConnell can lose two GOP senators and still let Vice President Pence break a tie.

Cruz was one of four conservative senators who said late last week that they couldn't support the bill as written.

Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerTrump’s shifting Cabinet to introduce new faces Trump's most memorable insults and nicknames of 2018 Progressive strategist says changing demographics will help Dems MORE (R-Nev.), a moderate Republican from a state that expanded Medicaid, also said last week that he couldn't vote for the bill.

Separately, Heller and Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulCivil rights group marks MLK Day with call for 'Trump card' national ID Pressure mounts for Trump to reconsider Syria withdrawal House Republicans call for moving State of the Union to Senate chamber MORE (Ky.), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonCongress sends bill renewing anti-terrorism program to Trump The Hill's Morning Report — Shutdown fallout — economic distress Hillicon Valley: Republicans demand answers from mobile carriers on data practices | Top carriers to stop selling location data | DOJ probing Huawei | T-Mobile execs stayed at Trump hotel as merger awaited approval MORE (Wis.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback The Memo: Concern over shutdown grows in Trump World Overnight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal MORE (Maine) have said they would vote against even proceeding to the legislation. If they stick to their pledge, they would be able to block the bill.

A fifth GOP senator, Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeHillicon Valley: Trump AG pick signals new scrutiny on tech giants | Wireless providers in new privacy storm | SEC brings charges in agency hack | Facebook to invest 0M in local news AG pick Barr wants closer scrutiny of Silicon Valley 'behemoths' Grassroots political participation is under attack in Utah and GOP is fighting back MORE (Utah),  has said that changes need be made before senators vote to proceed, but a spokesman stopped short of saying Lee is a "no" vote. Other key swing votes, including Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiTrump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback The Memo: Concern over shutdown grows in Trump World Kaine to force Senate to hold rare Saturday session amid shutdown MORE (R-Alaska), are signaling they still have deep concerns about the bill.

With a procedural vote coming as soon as Tuesday, GOP leadership is stepping up its efforts to win over on-the-fence lawmakers.

Paul announced that he would meet with President Trump on Tuesday to talk about the legislation.

"I'll discuss w/ him how to fix bill & get more to a YES on real repeal, things I've tried to tell Senate leaders with no result so far," he tweeted.

Pence is also reportedly hosting several conservative senators for dinner on Tuesday evening and is expected to attend the Senate GOP lunch.

"We'll continue to work very diligently. The American people know that ObamaCare is failing," Pence told reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday.