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

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCheney drama exposes GOP's Trump rifts Pollster Frank Luntz: 'I would bet on' Trump being 2024 GOP nominee Tim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls MORE (R-Texas) huddled in Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell: Taliban could take over Afghanistan by 'the end of the year' McConnell alma mater criticizes him for 1619 comments McConnell amid Trump criticism: 'I'm looking forward, not backward' 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."

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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 HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play 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 PaulTim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Sherrod Brown calls Rand Paul 'kind of a lunatic' for not wearing mask Overnight Health Care: WHO-backed Covax gets a boost from Moderna MORE (Ky.), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonOvernight Health Care: WHO-backed Covax gets a boost from Moderna Vaccine hesitancy among lawmakers slows return to normalcy on Capitol Hill FBI was aware Giuliani was a target of a Russian influence campaign ahead of 2020 election: report MORE (Wis.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCheney drama exposes GOP's Trump rifts House to advance appropriations bills in June, July Manchin touts rating as 'most bipartisan senator' 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 LeeRepublicans urge probe into Amazon government cloud-computing bid: report Allowing a racist slur against Tim Scott to trend confirms social media's activist bias Senate passes bipartisan B water infrastructure bill 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 MurkowskiPollster Frank Luntz: 'I would bet on' Trump being 2024 GOP nominee Trump muddles Republican messaging on Afghanistan Trump drama divides GOP, muddling message 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.