Four Senate conservatives say they oppose ObamaCare repeal bill

Four Senate conservatives have announced their opposition to the Senate GOP bill repealing ObamaCare, a power move intended to give them leverage going forward.

Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSaudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Noisy democracy, or rude people behaving like children? Lawmakers, Wall Street shrug off Trump's escalating Fed attacks MORE (R-Ky.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenators pledge action on Saudi journalist’s disappearance Bernie Sanders: US should pull out of war in Yemen if Saudis killed journalist Senators warn Trump that Saudi relationship is on the line MORE (Utah), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzDemocrats slide in battle for Senate O'Rourke's rise raises hopes for Texas Dems down ballot Election Countdown: Small-donor donations explode | Russian woman charged with midterm interference | Takeaways from North Dakota Senate debate | O'Rourke gives 'definitive no' to 2020 run | Dems hope Latino voters turn Arizona blue MORE (Texas) and Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senator seeking information on FBI dealings with Bruce Ohr, former DOJ lawyer Election Countdown: O'Rourke brings in massive M haul | Deal on judges lets senators return to the trail | Hurricane puts Florida candidates in the spotlight | Adelson spending big to save GOP in midterms Senate Homeland chair vents Mueller probe is preventing panel from receiving oversight answers MORE (Wis.) all said they are not ready to vote for the bill in a joint statement.

While the statement was not scathing, it said the current bill would not lower healthcare costs enough to win their support.

“Currently, for a variety of reasons, we are not ready to vote for this bill, but we are open to negotiation and obtaining more information before it is brought to the floor," the statement said.

"There are provisions in this draft that represent an improvement to our current healthcare system but it does not appear this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise that we made to Americans: to repeal Obamacare and lower their healthcare costs.”

The early opposition of Senate conservatives is a blow to the bill but doesn’t mean it’s dead yet, even though Republicans control only 52 seats and can afford no more than two defections and still pass the measure.

Conservatives want to pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats slide in battle for Senate McConnell and wife confronted by customers at restaurant Pelosi, Schumer: Trump 'desperate' to put focus on immigration, not health care MORE (R-Ky.) to revise the legislation and move it further to the right.

McConnell is also under pressure from GOP centrists, creating a difficult balancing act for the leader. Each move he makes to one of the two sides risks losing support from the other.

Of the four conservatives, Paul has long been seen as the least likely to end up voting for the bill. The other lawmakers have been seen as more likely to get to "yes,."

Paul, speaking only for himself, said the bill did not repeal enough of Obamacare, pointing to core elements of the GOP bill such as its tax credits and stabilization fund as "new entitlements."
He said now that leadership knows there are not 50 votes for the bill, he hopes a negotiation can begin. 
Paul also said it was not clear whether the four senators would stay united as talks continue.
"We have an agreement on the statement, let's see where it goes from there," he said.
Cruz, in a separate statement, emphasized the need to rein in Medicaid spending and lower premiums. He said he was encouraged by parts of the bill, but that more work needed to be done.
Johnson told reporters earlier in the day that he worried the Senate bill would do little to lower premiums, which is a primary goal of many GOP lawmakers.

“I don’t think there’s enough, probably, in there to bring down those premiums, which I think is a problem with both the House and maybe the Senate bill now,” he said.

Peter Sullivan and Nathan Weixel contributed.