Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying to deflect criticism of the GOP’s 13-member, all-male working group charged with drafting the Senate’s new healthcare bill.
“Nobody is being excluded based upon gender,” McConnell told reporters. He added that all 52 Senate Republicans were involved with reworking the American Health Care Act, which was narrowly approved in the House last week.
“Everybody is at the table. Everybody,” he added.
McConnell came under fire this week for not including any of the five female members of the Republican caucus in the working group, with some Democrats suggesting the resulting legislation would discriminate against women.
“It matters to have women at the table — and it matters when they aren’t,” Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington said on Twitter.
Following the backlash, Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia was asked to join the group to discuss Medicaid on Tuesday. Capito said she was unsure if she would be involved with future meetings.
Another female member of the Republican caucus, Maine Sen. Susan Collins, said she would not work on the all-male team even if she was asked, and is working on a healthcare plan separately from the group.
Collins objected to language in the House bill that stripped funding from Planned Parenthood, and according to Reuters, she has been reaching out to moderate Democrats while crafting her plan.
Another chief concern among women’s rights groups is the listing of pregnancy as a pre-existing condition.
The bill has a long way to go in the Senate, where it needs 60 votes to pass.
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