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5 GOP Senators Oppose Health Care Bill 06/24 10:01

   Nevada Republican Dean Heller became the fifth GOP senator to declare his 
opposition to the party's banner legislation to scuttle much of Barack Obama's 
health care overhaul on Friday, more than enough to sink the measure and 
deliver a stinging rebuke to President Donald Trump unless some of them can be 
brought aboard.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Nevada Republican Dean Heller became the fifth GOP 
senator to declare his opposition to the party's banner legislation to scuttle 
much of Barack Obama's health care overhaul on Friday, more than enough to sink 
the measure and deliver a stinging rebuke to President Donald Trump unless some 
of them can be brought aboard.

   Echoing the other four, Heller said he opposes the measure "in this form" 
but does not rule out backing a version that is changed to his liking. Senate 
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he's willing to alter the 
measure to attract support, and next week promises plenty of back-room 
bargaining as he tries pushing a final package through his chamber.

   Nonetheless, Heller's announcement underscores the scant margin of error 
Republican leaders must deal with. Facing unanimous Democratic opposition, 
McConnell can afford to lose just two of the 52 GOP senators and still prevail.

   Besides the five who've announced outright opposition, several other GOP 
senators --- conservatives and moderates --- have declined to commit to the new 
overhaul. The measure resembles legislation the House approved last month that 
the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said would mean 23 million 
additional uninsured people within a decade and that recent polling shows is 
viewed favorably by only around 1 in 4 Americans.

   Heller, facing a competitive re-election battle next year, said he was 
opposing the legislation because of the cuts it would make in Medicaid. The 
federal-state program provides health care to the poor, disabled and many 
nursing home patients.

   The Senate bill would also erase the tax penalties Obama's 2010 law imposes 
on people who don't purchase insurance. It would allow insurers to cover fewer 
benefits and repeal tax boosts on wealthier people that help finance the 
statute's expanded coverage.

   The Senate legislation would phase out extra federal money Nevada and 30 
other states receive for expanding Medicaid to additional low earners. It would 
also slap annual spending caps on the overall Medicaid program, which since its 
inception in 1965 has provided states with unlimited money to cover eligible 
costs.

   "I cannot support a piece of legislation that takes insurance away from tens 
of millions of Americans and tens of thousands of Nevadans," Heller said.

   Trump has spoken favorably about both the House-passed bill and the Senate 
version unveiled this week, though he declared several times as he ramped up 
his campaign for the presidency that he would not cut Medicaid.

   Heller said that to win his vote, GOP leaders would have to "protect 
Medicaid expansion states" from the bill's current cuts.

   "It's going to be very difficult to get me to a yes," he said, noting that 
conservative Republican senators would likely be reluctant to add spending back 
to the measure.

   Heller spoke at a news conference in Las Vegas with Nevada Gov. Brian 
Sandoval, a Republican who has also assailed the House and Senate health care 
bills for cutting Medicaid. The state has added 200,000 more people to its 
program under the Obama overhaul.

   Sandoval said the Senate bill "is something that needs to change." It would 
be politically difficult for Heller to take a different stance on the measure 
from the popular Sandoval.

   Heller got an opponent for next year when first-year Democratic Rep. Jacky 
Rosen announced this week she would seek his Senate seat.

   Just hours after McConnell released the 142-page legislation on Thursday, 
four conservatives said they opposed it. They were Sens. Ron Johnson of 
Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas.

   Underscoring the sensitivity of the bill, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who has 
not suggested she opposes the measure, declined to comment on its components 
when asked at a news conference Friday.

   "It was just released yesterday. So, we have 142 pages to go through," she 
said.

   Asked about the bill's impact on Medicaid insurance coverage for 
lower-income Iowans, Ernst said, "I wouldn't say they are losing it." Iowa 
opted to expand, and has added more than 150,000 people to its rolls since 2014.

   Under special rules McConnell is using that will block Democrats from using 
a filibuster to kill the bill, the legislation cannot include provisions that 
make policy changes that don't primarily affect the budget. The Senate 
parliamentarian will make that decision.

   Democrats hope to use those rules to erase some language from the bill, 
including a section barring consumers from using the measure's health care tax 
credits to buy insurance that covers abortions.

   Realizing they're outnumbered, Democrats and their liberal allies were 
planning events around the U.S. over the next few days aimed at building public 
opposition to the bill.

   In one instance, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and MoveOn.org were planning 
weekend rallies in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Each state has 
expanded Medicaid and has a GOP senator.


(KA)

 
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