Politics

Thune Says Senate Will Tweak Healthcare Bill To Get Hesitant GOP Lawmakers On Board

Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune said that talks on revisions to the Obamacare repeal bill released Thursday morning will start almost immediately in the wake of four GOP lawmakers in the upper chamber announcing that they won’t support the working draft in its current form.

Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin all spoke out against the measure, saying it wouldn’t do enough to deliver on their promise to bring down healthcare costs.

“Currently, for a variety of reasons, we are not ready to vote for this bill, but we are open to negotiation and obtaining more information before it is brought to the floor,” the four senators said in a statement. “There are provisions in this draft that represent an improvement to our current health care system, but 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.”

Despite plans to use the reconciliation process — which only requires a simple majority to pass the upper chamber — the loss of four members causes senate leadership to fall short on the votes needed to send the bill back to the House.

Thune, a member of the 13-person health care working group, said he believes that members of the conference are all dedicated to repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, and they are willing to make some adjustments to gain support.

“Well, I mean I think that, you know, the four members who are expressing that view at the moment need to let us know what it is that they need changed or fixed or improved upon to get to yes,” he told reporters. “Everybody wants to get to yes, and there are some things that we have that are dialable on this bill that we can hopefully tweak a little bit before it comes to the floor.”

Paul said he thinks the measure in its current form isn’t actually a repeal, arguing it leaves large portions of Obamacare in place.

“I think the bill can be made better and all four of us are saying that we can vote for it, but there has to be a negotiation now,” Paul told reporters. “I don’t think there is a realistic or a functioning negotiation unless we let people know that there’s not enough votes.”

While conservatives said they are ready to strike a compromise, some remain skeptical that hard-liners will get on board with the legislation.

“I’m not sure that Rand will ever be there, but we’re not voting yet,” Thune said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would like to see the bill come to the floor before their July 4 recess, but several lawmakers said they are unconvinced that they can come to a consensus with a limited window.

“I have a hard time thinking those things are going to be answered and allayed by the end of next week,” Johnson told reporters.

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