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Week ahead: Senate GOP struggles to find ObamaCare repeal answer

Week ahead: Senate GOP struggles to find ObamaCare repeal answer
© Keren Carrion

Senate Republicans will seek to make progress on their stalled ObamaCare repeal bill in the coming week--this time away from Washington and back in their states for recess.

Lawmakers left town amid a flurry of activity over potential changes to the bill, as leaders look to cobble together the 50 votes needed in the upper chamber for passage, a mark they are significantly short of at the moment.

Likely changes that could be worked on over the recess include increasing the tax credits in the bill to provide more assistance to low-income and older people in affording coverage.

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Some lawmakers, like Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (R-Tenn.) have floated not repealing a 3.8 percent tax on high-earners' investment income as a way to pay for the change.

"We [want to] address the issue of ensuring lower-income citizens are in a position to buy plans that are actually provide them appropriate healthcare," Corker said. To do that, "my sense is the 3.8 percent repeal will go away."

Lawmakers are also planning to add $45 billion in funding to fight opioid addiction in an effort to win over lawmakers like Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanPortman: Republicans are 'absolutely' committed to bipartisan infrastructure bill Sunday shows - Voting rights, infrastructure in the spotlight Manchin compromise proposal a 'federal takeover of the election system,' GOP senator says MORE (R-Ohio) and Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoOvernight Health Care: Takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision | COVID-19 cost 5.5 million years of American life | Biden administration investing billions in antiviral pills for COVID-19 COVID-19 long-haulers press Congress for paid family leave Senate confirms Radhika Fox to lead EPA's water office MORE (R-W.Va.).

However, both of those senators have said that the money is not enough to win their votes yet, and they both have broader concerns about the depth of Medicaid cuts in the bill.

On the conservative side, Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior Big Tech critic Lina Khan named chair of the FTC GOP senators press Justice Department to compare protest arrests to Capitol riot MORE (R-Utah) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Ted Cruz says critical race theory is as racist as 'Klansmen in white sheets' Pentagon pulling 'certain forces and capabilities,' including air defenses, from Middle East MORE (R-Texas) are pushing to change the bill to allow insurers to sell plans that don't meet ObamaCare requirements if they also sell plans that do.

Much of the rest of the conference, though, is worried that sick people would be left as the only ones in the more expensive ObamaCare plans, driving up their costs.

The conservatives met with GOP leaders and the Senate parliamentarian on Thursday in an effort to make progress on some sort of deal to make the change.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneCongress barrels toward debt cliff Trump endorses Murkowski challenger Yellen: Disclosure of tax data to ProPublica a 'very serious situation' MORE (R-S.D.), the No. 3 Senate Republican, said Cruz's change "could" be included, but "it has to be structured in a way that ensures that the pools aren't adversely affected."

While negotiations, continue, some conservatives, like Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulFauci says he puts 'very little weight in the craziness of condemning me' Senate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior Rand Paul does not support a national minimum wage increase — and it's important to understand why MORE (R-Ky.) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) are getting impatient, and pressing for Republicans to simply pass a repeal bill, then deal with replacement later.

They were backed by President Trump in a tweet Friday.  

"If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!," the president wrote.

That strategy, though, was rejected by more moderate lawmakers earlier this year, who are worried about people losing coverage with no plan to fill the gap.

 

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