A bill focused on buttressing the nation's insurance marketplaces will be needed if the full-fledged Republican effort to repeal much of President Barack Obama's health care law fails, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday. It was one of his most explicit acknowledgments that his party's top-priority drive to erase much of Obama's landmark 2010 statutes might fall short.
The remarks by McConnell, R-Ky., also implicitly meant that to show progress on health care, Republicans controlling the White House and Congress might have to negotiate with Democrats. While the current, wide-ranging GOP health care bill — which McConnell is still hoping to push through the Senate — has procedural protections against a Democratic Senate filibuster, a subsequent, narrower measure would not and would take 60 votes to pass.
The existing bill would fail if just three of the 52 Republicans vote no, since all Democrats oppose it. McConnell was forced to cancel a planned vote on the measure last week after far more Republicans than that objected, and he's been spending the Independence Day recess studying possible changes that might win over GOP dissidents.
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Meanwhile, demonstrators across the country are gathering at their local representatives' offices Thursday to voice their opposition against the GOP's Better Care Reconciliation Act.
In Tucson, Arizona, two protesters were arrested at Sen. Jeff Flake's office, according to NBC's affiliate KVOA.
One of the protesters were arrested for suggesting that "liberals are going to solve the Republican problem" by getting a "better aim," presumably referencing last month's attack on GOP congress members at the congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, according to Jason Samuels, Sen. Flake’s Communications Director.
"There is no place for threats of violence in a democratic society. Ever," Sen. Flake said in response to the arrest on Twitter.
In Texas, about 60 protesters gathered outside a town hall event where Sen. Ted Cruz spoke, many saying they're concerned about Medicaid and coverage for pre-existing conditions in the Senate health bill.
In Florida, protesters are expected to gather outside of Sen. Marco Rubio's office in Doral to urge him to not support the bill. "We respect these activists’ right to protest, however it should not interfere with the ability of Senator Rubio and his staff to serve the people of Florida, nor should it disrupt the private businesses located near our offices," Olivia Perez-Cubas, Rubio's spokeswoman, said in a statement.
In Oshkosh, Wisconsin, protesters from Wisconsin Progressivee Alliance organized a sit-in outside of Sen. Ron Johnson's office. "All we want is an open, public town hall and for you to vote no and #stoptrumpcare #sitinsavelives," the group posted on Facebook.
In its report last week on the Senate bill, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said that under Obama's law, it expected health care markets "to be stable in most areas."
It said the same about the Senate legislation. But it also said under the GOP bill, 22 million added Americans would be uninsured because it would eliminate Obama's tax penalty on people who don't buy coverage and it would cut Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor, disabled and many nursing home patients.
McConnell spoke hours after Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said the bill's prospects were "precarious." Speaking on San Antonio's KTSA Radio, Cruz said the GOP's Senate majority "is so narrow, I don't know if we can get it done or not."
Further qualms were voiced by Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.
"There are people who tell me they are better off" under Obama's law, "and I believe them," Moran said at a town hall meeting Thursday in Palco, Kansas. Moran, who'd said he could not support the current version of the bill, said health care is "almost impossible to solve" with the slim GOP majority in the Senate.
Another Republican, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, suggested it may take some time before McConnell can win enough support for the GOP legislation.
"We're still several weeks away from a vote, I think," Toomey said Wednesday during an hour-long appearance before a live studio audience at WHTM-TV in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.