Week ahead: Senate work on ObamaCare repeal intensifies

Week ahead: Senate work on ObamaCare repeal intensifies
© Greg Nash

The GOP Senate's work on legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare is expected to heat up in the coming week.

Senators only have two weeks left in the work period before the Fourth of July recess, which leaders have eyed as a target for holding a vote on a bill. But there are still significant policy hurdles that remain.

GOP leaders insist the divide between moderate Republicans and conservatives is surmountable. They've been talking about repealing ObamaCare for seven years, and publicly say they can see the finish line.

There will be more meetings in the coming week, but the discussions have been behind closed doors so far, leading to grumbling from Democrats, as well as some Republicans like Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump vetoes measure ending US support for Saudi-led war in Yemen Bottom line Trump: I have not read Mueller report, 'though I have every right to do so' MORE (R-Ky.), and outside groups about transparency.


Some senators say time is not on their side as they try to win votes, and they believe Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump, Dems prep for Mueller report's release McConnell touts Trump support, Supreme Court fights in reelection video Why Ken Cuccinelli should be Trump's choice for DHS MORE (R-Ky.) could simply decide it's time to move and force a vote.

"It won't be appreciably better a month from today than it is today. At some point to get this done, you're going to get it done in the last 10 days before the vote," Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntHillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech Lawmakers, tech set for clash over AI Overnight Health Care: CEO of largest private health insurer slams 'Medicare for All' plans | Dem bill targets youth tobacco use | CVS fined over fake painkiller prescriptions | Trump, first lady to discuss opioid crisis at summit MORE (R-Mo.) said

But the disagreements aren't minor. Senators are still debating how quickly to phase out federal funds for Medicaid expansion and how deeply to cut the program, and lawmakers say they have still not seen legislative text of a bill.

Instead, they've been sending bits and pieces of the bill to the Congressional Budget Office individually.

"I think we're making progress but they're very difficult issues. Leadership hasn't written a bill yet," Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senators double down on demand for Clinton email probe documents Congress opens door to fraught immigration talks McConnell: 'Past time' for immigration-border security deal MORE (R-Wis.) said.

And pressure is mounting. Liberal groups are targeting swing Republican votes.

One of the lawmakers on their list, Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiCain says he won't back down, wants to be nominated to Fed License to discriminate: Religious exemption laws are trampling rights in rural America On The Money — Presented by Job Creators Network — Cain expected to withdraw from Fed consideration, report says | Dem bill directs IRS to create free online filing service | Trump considered Ivanka for World Bank MORE (R-Alaska) has already expressed concerns. Asked Thursday if she could spport the emerging GOP bill, Murkowski said: "I just truly do not know."

It's a daunting path ahead, with Republicans still needing to finish writing the bill, get a CBO score, and secure 50 votes.

Outside of the repeal bill, lawmakers have a number of hearings on health issues in the coming week.

On Wednesday, a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska native Affairs will look at legislation to improve the Indian Health Service.

There will also be more budget hearings.

Tuesday, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb will testify before a Senate Appropriations subpanel on his agency's fiscal 2018 budget request.

On Wednesday, a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee will hear from Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin on his department's fiscal 2018 budget request

On Thursday, a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the fiscal 2018 budget request for the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Francis S. Collins, the NIH director will testify.

President Trump's proposed budget would cut $5.8 billion for the agency, a plan that has already encountered sharp opposition in Congress.


In case you missed it:

Insurers confront big ObamaCare decision

Murkowski: 'I just truly do not know' if I can support GOP health bill

Trump calls House healthcare bill 'mean'

GOP leader rebuts Trump on House health bill: 'It's not mean'

Insurer exits bolster GOP case for ObamaCare repeal

Nevada's GOP governor breaks with Heller on Medicaid expansion 

Liberal group targets potential Republican healthcare swing votes

Governors from both parties slam House healthcare bill, call for bipartisan Senate approach

Schumer wants all-Senate meeting on healthcare

Nebraska will have an insurer on its ObamaCare exchange

Trump administration preparing executive order on drug pricing