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Senate GOP brings Obamacare repeal bill out of the shadows

Senate GOP brings Obamacare repeal bill out of the shadows

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arrives on Capitol Hill as Senate Republicans work on a health reform bill on on June 22, 2017. | Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

After weeks of work behind closed doors, the GOP released its plan and will try to find the votes to pass it.

By Burgess Everett , Jennifer Haberkorn and Adam Cancryn

06/22/2017 05:19 AM EDT

Updated 06/22/2017 10:47 AM EDT

2017-06-22T10:47-0400

Senate Republican leaders unveiled their long-secret plan to repeal Obamacare on Thursday, giving GOP senators and the public the first glimpse at a bill that would rewrite the nation’s health care system.

The broad contours of the 142-page bill — which would tear down large parts of the 2010 health law, cap one of the nation’s biggest entitlement programs and overhaul one-sixth of the U.S. economy — have come into focus in recent days.

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But GOP senators trickling out of an all-conference meeting this morning said while the reaction was broadly positive, it amounted to just an initial step toward winning over a host of still-skeptical lawmakers.

"A lot of questions," Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said of the closed-door session. "But there wasn't paper. Until they get a chance to read it, I'm sure they won't firm up."

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing for a vote as early as next Thursday, ahead of Congress’ July 4 recess. Since Democrats are unified in their opposition, Republicans are using a fast-track process that can evade filibusters.

GOP leaders need the support of at least 50 of the chamber’s 52 Republican senators to pass the bill, and several this week said they’re withholding their support until they see final legislation. Thursday’s represented the “start of the process” of getting requisite votes, said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas).

“We’ve been talking about these concepts for a long time. This is an attempt to bring us to … how we resolve the differences and achieve consensus. I think it’s going to be very detailed,” Cornyn said.

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It won’t immediately be clear if McConnell has the votes until sometime next week, after a Congressional Budget Office analysis illustrates how many fewer Americans are likely to be insured by the bill and answers the crucial political question of whether premiums would be reduced.

And the proposal, which is being called a discussion draft, is likely to change before next week’s vote as senators engage in last-minute negotiations on the legislation.

Republicans are hoping for broader buy-in from the healthcare industry Thursday than the House bill received, some senators said. Republicans also said they expected the bulk of the caucus will endorse the bill immediately, with leadership allies expected to give the legislation a quick jolt of momentum.

“We’ll have some people who will say: ‘I’ll vote for it immediately,’ because they realize that failing to

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Senate GOP reveals Obamacare repeal bill but still lacks the votes

Senate GOP reveals Obamacare repeal bill but still lacks the votes

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is still short the 50 votes he needs to pass the bill, with several senators saying they’re withholding their support until they see final legislation. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP

After weeks of work behind closed doors, the GOP released its plan and is now trying to find the votes to pass it.

By Adam Cancryn , Burgess Everett and Jennifer Haberkorn

06/22/2017 05:19 AM EDT

Updated 06/22/2017 02:53 PM EDT

2017-06-22T02:53-0400

Senate Republican leaders unveiled their long-secret plan to repeal Obamacare Thursday, formally kicking off the search for the 50 votes needed for passage amid stark party divisions.

Just hours after Republicans were briefed on the bill, four conservatives put out a statement saying they were withholding their support for the plan. A number of moderate GOP senators, meanwhile, said they were still poring through the the 142-page bill , which was crafted after weeks of work behind closed doors.

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The broad contours of the plan — which would tear down large parts of the 2010 health law, cap one of the nation’s biggest entitlement programs and overhaul one-sixth of the U.S. economy — have come into focus in recent days.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing for a vote as early as next Thursday, ahead of Congress’ July 4 recess and before more opposition can mount.

But the Kentucky Republican is still short the 50 votes he needs to pass the bill.

GOP Sens. Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson, Mike Lee and Rand Paul said in a statement Thursday that they are "not ready" to support the measure, though they remained open to voting for it after further negotiations.

"It does not appear this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise that we made to Americans: to repeal Obamacare and lower their health care costs," they said.

Cruz is pushing for an amendment to allow catastrophic, low premium plans, but it's not clear if the parliamentarian will allow them, according to Republicans.

Since Senate Democrats are unified in their resistance, Republicans are using a fast-track process that can evade filibusters. But they can only afford two defections and still maintain the thin majority needed to pass the repeal bill.

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats immediately took to the floor to blast the plan.

“The president said the Senate bill needed heart,” he said. “The way this bill cuts health care is heartless. The president said the House bill was mean. The Senate bill may be meaner.”

When asked if the Senate plan has enough heart at a White House event Thursday, President Donald Trump replied, “A little negotiation, but it's going to be very good.”

The Congressional Budget Office hasn't yet weighed in on how many fewer Americans are likely to be insured under the Republican plan, or

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Iowa GOP Chairman Rips ‘Arrogant Academic’ Ben Sasse

Iowa GOP Chairman Rips ‘Arrogant Academic’ Ben Sasse

Getty

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — The chairman of this state’s Republican Party suggested Wednesday that Sen. Ben Sasse, who has gained national prominence as a critic of Donald Trump, isn’t welcome in Iowa—two weeks before the Nebraska Republican is scheduled to keynote a local party dinner in his first visit here since Trump was elected president.

In an extraordinary and seemingly unprovoked attack, Jeff Kaufmann lashed out at Sasse on Wednesday evening—first from the stage of Trump’s campaign-style event here in eastern Iowa, and again in an interview with POLITICO following the event.

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Stepping to the podium inside U.S. Cellular Arena as a warm-up act for the president, a visibly chafed Kaufmann announced that he needed to get some things off his chest and proceeded to spend most of his time berating the president’s critics in the media and on the left. It was in a brief rebuke of the so-called Never-Trumpers, however, that the Iowa GOP chairman singled out Sasse.

“We had Sen. Ben Sasse from Nebraska, he crosses the Missouri River, and in that sanctimonious tone talks about what he doesn’t like about Donald Trump,” Kaufmann said. “You know what, Sen. Sasse? I really don’t care what you like. We love Donald Trump. And if you don’t love him, I suggest you stay on your side of the Missouri River.”

Sasse came to Iowa last January, in the run-up to the state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, and grabbed headlines by campaigning alongside three Republican candidates—Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina—as a demonstration of his commitment to defeating Trump. The Nebraska senator mocked the reality TV star’s understanding of the Constitution and questioned his morality, among other stinging attacks that elevated him as a leading voice in the Never Trump movement.

Sasse continued his criticisms of Trump even after he won the nomination and the presidency, but his dissent has become noticeably less acerbic—making it all the stranger that Kaufmann would choose to resurrect their feud at a moment when divisions in the Republican Party are threatening to cripple the president’s legislative agenda.

In an interview after Trump’s speech, Kaufmann acknowledged that his anger with Sasse had been bottled up since the pre-caucus period last year and said the senator had done nothing specific recently to aggravate him. That said, Kaufmann repeatedly cited Sasse’s “tone”—that of an intellectually superior Republican, he said, who treats Trump voters with “condescension”—as the source of his animus toward the senator.

“He’s an arrogant academic,” Kaufmann said of Sasse, a former college president. “He’s sanctimonious. His statements are geared toward what can help him . He’s arrogant. And he’s not a team player, when in reality the only reason he’s got any clout at all in the Senate is because the Republican Party has the majority.”

Kaufmann paused, then added: “The most important thing to Ben Sasse is Ben Sasse.”

A spokesman for Sasse did not respond to multiple requests seeking comment.

The brutal intraparty attack is striking not just because the

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Gingrich: The media was right — Georgia race was about Trump

Gingrich: The media was right — Georgia race was about Trump

“In the end, I think the margin of victory were people who were determined not to allow the news media and Nancy Pelosi and Hollywood liberals to defeat Donald Trump in their district,” Newt Gingrich said.

With the votes counted and Republican Karen Handel declared the winner in Tuesday’s special election to fill the vacant seat in Georgia’s sixth Congressional district, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Thursday that the media was right about the race all along: “It was a referendum on Donald Trump.”

Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff, keeping Georgia’s sixth district under GOP control after the most expensive House race in history. Democrats, eager to seize the seat vacated by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, poured money into the race. In the run-up to Election Day, polls showed Ossoff and Handel in a dead heat just months after Price had won reelection by more than 23 percentage points.

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The race was characterized in some corners as an early bellwether of support for the president, who won Georgia’s sixth district by just a single point over Democrat Hillary Clinton last November. Handel’s nearly four-point win, along with other GOP victories in special elections across the country, proves that the president is more popular than many in the media think. —

“So the news media had it right. This was a referendum on Trump. He won,” he said. “The problem for the news media is they can't come to grips with the fact that in five different specials, the Republicans have won, and that sort of says maybe Trump's doing a lot better in America than he is in the news media.”

The glut of money from outside Georgia that funneled into Ossoff’s campaign ultimately became a weapon against him, said Gingrich, who once represented the same suburban Atlanta district that Handel won Tuesday. Ossoff’s residency outside the district he was running to represent counted as another strike against him, the former speaker said.

“In the end, I think the margin of victory were people who were determined not to allow the news media and Nancy Pelosi and Hollywood liberals to defeat Donald Trump in their district, and I think that was probably the margin of victory,” Gingrich said.

The former speaker joked that he would hate to see Democrats make a change in leadership away from Pelosi, their current minority leader in the House. “We have all the ads done,” Gingrich said. “We know exactly how to run against a Nancy Pelosi-run party.”

Pelosi's leadership has also faced challenges from inside her party. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who mounted an unsuccessful challenge last year to unseat Pelosi as minority leader, said Thursday on MSNBC that it will be hard for Democrats to win back the House with Pelosi at the party's helm.

Democrats have a "toxic" brand nationwide, Ryan said, allowing the GOP to tie individual candidates to Pelosi and other Democratic leaders. On "Fox News," Gingrich suggested that Republicans would take exactly

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Gingrich: The media were right — Georgia race was about Trump

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Read more:  http://www.politico.com/story/2017/06/22/georgia-special-election-newt-gingrich-239846

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