GOP governors could help bring down Senate health bill

GOP governors could help bring down Senate health bill
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GOP governors opposed to the Senate healthcare bill’s changes to Medicaid are exerting influence on their home-state senators, making it more difficult for Republican leaders to net the 50 votes they need to pass the legislation.

The GOP governors could give cover to senators who oppose the bill, but they could also make it more difficult for a Republican senator to stake out a dissenting position.

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Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerGOP plays defense on ObamaCare’s pre-existing conditions Heller embraces Trump in risky attempt to survive in November McConnell suggests he could hold Senate in session through October MORE (R-Nev.) announced his opposition to the Senate bill at a press conference where he stood side by side with Gov. Brian Sandoval (R), highlighting the issue.

Sandoval has been protective of his state’s Medicaid expansion, and Heller — seen as the most vulnerable senator up for reelection next year — raised doubts about whether he could support any phase-out of federal funds for Medicaid expansion.

“It’s going to be very difficult to get me to a yes,” Heller said. “You have to protect Medicaid expansion states. That’s what I want.”

The mounting criticism from GOP governors may be enough to convince some Republicans to kill the Senate’s ObamaCare repeal legislation. So far, nine GOP senators oppose the bill, which leaves Republicans with a steep climb to get the measure through the Senate. 

With a slim 52-48 majority in the upper chamber, GOP leaders can only afford to lose two votes, assuming Vice President Pence breaks a tie.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) have also been weighing in, urging their senators to change or oppose provisions of the legislation that could cost their states millions of dollars.

Kasich has been the most vocal Republican governor opposed to the Senate’s bill. He’s ripped the Medicaid cuts and urged Democrats and Republicans to work on a better, bipartisan solution.

Kasich ratcheted up his criticisms on Tuesday during a joint press conference with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D). He didn’t want to talk about how Ohio Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGraham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan group wants to lift Medicaid restriction on substance abuse treatment MORE (R) might vote, but said Portman understands his objections to the Senate plan.

“I’ve talked to Rob a million times; he knows exactly what my concerns are,” Kasich said, adding that he’s warned Portman against being swayed by minor concessions from leaders.

“I told him, ‘If they hand you a few billion dollars on opioids … that’s like spitting in the ocean,’ ” compared to the hundreds of billions the bill would cut from Medicaid, Kasich said.

On Tuesday, Portman cited changes to Medicaid and drug treatment as stumbling blocks for him on the bill. 

“I continue to have real concerns about the Medicaid policies in this bill, especially those that impact drug treatment at a time when Ohio is facing an opioid epidemic,” he said in a statement.

Ducey sent a letter to Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump hits McCain on ObamaCare vote GOP, White House start playing midterm blame game Arizona race becomes Senate GOP’s ‘firewall’ MORE (R-Ariz.) last week outlining his concerns with the bill, which include a slower phase-out of the Medicaid expansion and higher Medicaid inflation adjustments.

“My own governor is extremely worried, because we’re a Medicaid expansion state and we would lose a whole lot of money,” McCain warned Tuesday.

Senate leaders decided Tuesday to postpone a vote on the bill until after the July 4 recess to give Republicans more time to change the legislation to get a more favorable Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis and whip more votes.

A CBO score released this week found the Senate bill would cut $772 billion from Medicaid and would result in 15 million people on Medicaid losing their coverage.

The score led a number of GOP senators to say they wouldn’t back a procedural motion on the bill that had been set for Wednesday.