Moderates holding back support for new Senate bill

It's unclear whether Senate Republicans have the votes to win on a key procedural motion that would allow them to debate the new healthcare bill they released on Thursday.

Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators Only two people cited by TSA for mask violations have agreed to pay fine Senators reach billion deal on emergency Capitol security bill MORE (R-Ky.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate Top Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure Bill would honor Ginsburg, O'Connor with statues at Capitol MORE (R-Maine) both said they would oppose the motion, meaning Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire MORE (R-Ky.) cannot afford another defection on the vote.

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet On The Money: Justice Department says Trump's tax returns should be released | Democrats fall short of votes for extending eviction ban Photos of the Week: Olympic sabre semi-finals, COVID-19 vigil and a loris MORE (R-Ohio) said his position had not changed, but he did not give a clear answer on whether he'd back his party on the procedural vote.

Asked whether he would vote for the motion to proceed, Portman said, “No.”

But he added: “I'm the same position I've been in. I'm looking at the language.”

Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoBiden to return to pre-Obama water protections in first step for clean water regulations The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (R-W.Va.), who has been an ally of Portman's during the healthcare talks, said she doesn’t know whether she’ll vote to proceed to the bill after hearing a presentation from Senate Republican leaders at the Capitol.

ADVERTISEMENT

“We have another meeting this afternoon on the Medicaid cuts,” she told reporters. “I need to really look at it, look at the score, I still have concerns.”

Asked if she would vote for the motion to proceed next week, she said, “Wait and see.”

Capito also said she did not know whether her concerns could be addressed through the amendment process.

“I’m going to hold comment on that.” 

GOP moderates are planning to meet later Thursday afternoon to discuss their concerns with the bill, which would phase out federal funding for expended Medicaid enrollment and impose a stricter formula for indexing the program to inflation.

Portman, Capito and two other moderates, Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiBill would honor Ginsburg, O'Connor with statues at Capitol The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (R-Alaska) and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerDemocrat Jacky Rosen becomes 22nd senator to back bipartisan infrastructure deal 9 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2022 On The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare MORE (R-Nev.), were spotted walking into McConnell’s office shortly after lunchtime.

Heller said he’s on the fence over how to vote on beginning the debate next week. 

“No decisions have been made yet so we’ll continue the conversation,” Heller told reporters. 

Murkowski on Wednesday argued that Medicaid reforms should be kept separate from legislation repealing and replacing ObamaCare.

She views the adoption of a less generous formula for Medicaid inflation as something outside the scope of the Senate healthcare bill.

“It goes into a level of Medicaid reform, traditional Medicaid reform, that had nothing to do with [the Affordable Care Act,]” she said, using ObamaCare’s formal name. 

“Let’s leave Medicaid off the table for right now. Let’s bifurcate this,” she said. “This is not something that, in my view, is best done in a reconciliation process.”

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet 228 Republican lawmakers urge Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade GOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate MORE (R-Texas) said he could support the new bill, a key win for McConnell.

"If this is the bill, I will support this bill," Cruz told reporters after a meeting of GOP senators. "Now, if it’s amended and we lose the protections that lower premiums my view could well change."

Language backed by Cruz was included in the new version, but it's unclear whether it will be retained.

Even with the addition of Cruz, however, McConnell faces more uncertainty.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who teamed up with Collins earlier this year to push alternative legislation, told reporters before a Thursday lunch meeting that he was not sure whether he would vote to let the bill advance.

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain to produce 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff' Lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear An August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done Meghan McCain on Pelosi, McCarthy fight: 'I think they're all bad' MORE (R-Ariz.) also voiced dismay with the legislative plan presented to the GOP conference Thursday.

He said he will vote for the motion to begin debate, but complained that the three amendments Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) wanted in the legislation were left out.

Portman and other moderates — with the exception of Collins — did not rule out the possibility of changing their minds before the Senate is expected to vote next week.

Paul has long opposed the bill, arguing it leaves much of ObamaCare in place.

This report was updated at 2:37 p.m.