McConnell downplays all-male healthcare working group

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump says GOP will support pre-existing condition protections | McConnell defends ObamaCare lawsuit | Dems raise new questions for HHS on child separations Poll finds Dems prioritize health care, GOP picks lower taxes when it's time to vote The Hill's 12:30 Report — Mnuchin won't attend Saudi conference | Pompeo advises giving Saudis 'few more days' to investigate | Trump threatens military action over caravan MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday downplayed criticism of the GOP’s 13-senator healthcare working group that contains no women, saying the entire Republican conference is involved.

“The working group that counts is all 52 of us, and we’re having extensive meetings, as I said a few minutes ago, every day,” McConnell told reporters after being pressed about the all-male working group.

“Nobody is being excluded based upon gender,” he added, saying the focus on the 13-member group exaggerates its importance.


McConnell criticized the press for asking about who met with GOP leaders before a broader conference-wide lunch meeting. He told reporters to pay more attention to the policy discussion and less on gender politics.

“You need to write about what’s actually happening, and we’re having a discussion about the real issues. Everybody is at the table. Everybody,” he said.

The majority leader emphasized that his entire caucus, including five female senators, will meet regularly to discuss healthcare reform.

“We just had a meeting for an hour, everybody was at the table. We’ll have another meeting for an hour or so tomorrow. Everybody will be at the table,” he said.

Leadership invited one female colleague, Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Dem path to a Senate majority narrows GOP shrugs off dire study warning of global warming Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Senators face Wednesday vote on Trump health plans rule | Trump officials plan downtime for ObamaCare website | Lawmakers push for action on reducing maternal deaths MORE (R-W.Va.), to meet with the working group at noon in the Strom Thurmond Room to discuss Medicaid reforms.

Capito said she did not know whether she would be invited to attend future meetings of the group, but a spokesman for McConnell later clarified to reporters that she will not be made a regular member of the task force.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns Susan Collins and the mob mentality Graham: I hope Dems 'get their ass kicked' for conduct around Kavanaugh MORE (R-Maine), a respected voice on a variety of issues with the GOP conference, told NBC News that she would not participate in the working group even if invited.

Senate Democrats pounced on the issue to paint GOP leaders as insensitive to women’s healthcare needs. 

"If you look at the House bill, it is so discriminatory against women," said Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns McConnell says deficits 'not a Republican problem' Medicare for All is disastrous for American seniors and taxpayers MORE (N.Y.). 

"To not have women in the smaller group that we know is making many of the real decisions is a very, very bad thing. They're more than half the population."