The Senate will take their sweet time with the AHCA
As the House last week celebrated passing the American Health Care Act with 217 votes the Senate is in no hurry to take a bill to the floor. It is clear that the upper chamber has no interest in what the House passed and they will have their own bill that will have to pass.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kent.) was polite but firm that he has very little interest in the House bill. “This process will not be quick or simple or easy, but it must be done,” McConnell said Monday.
- First thing that McConnell did was task a 12 member “Working Group,” that is led by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), one of the Senate’s most respected members. He has over the year’s been a key bi-partisan voice and able to craft a far more moderate bill.
- Thanks to parliamentary issues — and the need for a CBO score for reconciliation — the earliest the Senate can act would be late June. But many members of the Senate realize that moving on the bill could push the process closer to July or even August. It is Alexander that understands crafting meaningful legislation on a bill that effects one sixth of the country’s economy needs to be done right.
- Rob Portman (R-Ohio) will be a key vote to watch as he leads a group three or four Republicans whose states dislike the House’s Medicaid cuts because they’d face a wave of constituents losing coverage under the health care program for the poor. The AHCA would end the extra federal money states get for new beneficiaries under Obama’s Medicaid expansion by 2020, and Portman leads a small group of GOP senators who want that part of the bill cut out completely or delayed indefinitely.
- Bill Cassidy, (R-La.), has his own bill that he hopes will get backing. He is set to appear on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” after saying any GOP bill must pass “the Jimmy Kimmel test.” Many will recall last week that popular talk show host, made a tearful opening monologue describing life-saving heart surgery his newborn son had received and saying lawmakers must help people afford health care.
- Susan Collins, (R-Maine), remains a very strong supporter of the federal funding from Planned Parenthood. Meanwhile, on the right, conservative Sens. Rand Paul, (R-Ky.); Mike Lee, (R-Utah); and Ted Cruz, (R-Texas), all tweeted that they would oppose anything short of a full repeal of Obamacare. They also said the House bill’s tax credit structure to help people pay for coverage amounted to a new entitlement.
So, as you can see there is plenty of non-starters to most of the issues in the new AHCA bill. The trip through the senate will be bumpy to say the least and some people feel that it is possible that it may not even happen this year.