Republicans struggle to secure consensus on revised healthcare plan

Proposal has alienated both fiscal conservatives and more left-wing members of the party

  Democrat Chuck Schumer   responds to  Republican Mitch McConnell’s decision to delay the start of the August recess until the third week of August. Photograph: EPA/Michael Reynolds

Democrat Chuck Schumer responds to Republican Mitch McConnell’s decision to delay the start of the August recess until the third week of August. Photograph: EPA/Michael Reynolds

 

As US president Donald Trump met with his French counterpart Emanuel Macron in Paris, at home his party was struggling to secure consensus on a new healthcare plan.

Republican senators unveiled their latest version of the American Health Care Act on Thursday in a bid to unify Republicans behind a proposal that has alienated both fiscal conservatives and more left-wing members of the party.

Under the revised plan published by senate majority leader Mitch Mc Connell, two taxes on high-income earners which had been abolished in the original draft have been restored – a 3.8 per cent tax on investment income and a 0.9 per cent charge on income. The new proposal also offers $45 million extra in funding for the opioid crisis and $70 billion to help states reduce premiums.

While both measures were designed to placate those senators worried that the impact of the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare on lower-income Americans, the proposal will still hit poorer Americans hardest according to critics of the bill.

In particular, Democrats and left-leaning Republicans strongly criticised moves to include a version of a proposal by Republican senator Ted Cruz that will allow insurers to sell plans that don’t comply with the Obamacare requirements if they also offer plans that do.

More difficulties

Mr Mc Connell, who failed in his bid to secure agreement on the plan to repeal and replace Obamacare before the July 4th recess, is hoping to move the bill to debate in the Senate next week. To do so, he needs 50 votes. With Republicans holding 52 seats in the 100-member senate it was unclear if Republicans had enough support to proceed.

In a sign of the continuing difficulties facing the passage of the bill, Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy unveiled their own version of a healthcare plan. The Congressional Budget Office is due to release its analysis of the Senate leader’s new plan early next week. Last month it reported that the original senate plan would leave 22 million fewer Americans with health insurance by 2026.

Earlier this week Mr McConnell announced that the Senate would delay its August recess by two weeks in order to make progress on the Republican legislative agenda.

Hands-off approach

Mr Trump, who has taken a hands-off approach to the ongoing healthcare negotiations on Capitol Hill, increased the pressure on Republicans to secure agreement on healthcare on the eve of his departure for Paris.  

In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network he said he did not want to consider what would happen if Republicans don’t pass healthcare reform. “I will be very angry about it and a lot of people will be very upset,” he said.

“I am sitting in the Oval Office with a pen in hand, waiting for our senators to give it to me. For years, they’ve been talking about repeal-replace, repeal-replace. I think they passed it 61 times ... now we have a president that’s waiting to sign it. I have pen in hand so now it means something.”

The House of Representatives approved its own version of the healthcare plan on May 4th.