Senate GOP leaders decided to delay a vote on the party’s healthcare bill on Tuesday until after the week-long July 4 recess. But the immediate reaction from one key senator made any change in fortune seem less than likely.
Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate from Maine, told reporters that it would take more than just a few “tweaks” to get her on board with the bill.
“I will say I have so many fundamental problems with the bill, that have been confirmed by the CBO report, that it’s difficult for me to see how any tinkering is going to satisfy my fundamental and deep concerns about the impact of the bill,” Collins said.
The Congressional Budget Office projected that 22 million more Americans would be without health insurance under the bill, Better Care Reconciliation Act, than the current baseline. Additionally, low-income and older Americans would end up paying more for insurance, the CBO projected.
For Senate Republican leaders, the worrying aspect of the Collins statement is that she wants structural changes to bill, which would be more likely to move it in a more moderate direction. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moves the bill in that direction, he risks losing conservative members of his conference.
On the other hand, if leaders try to court conservatives, they could lose other moderates. Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, for instance, has already said he would oppose the bill in its current form.
McConnell can only lose two votes for the bill to pass.
The CBO score did contain one piece of good news for the leadership. The report projected that the bill would reduce the deficit by $US331 billion over 10 years, over $US200 billion more in savings than the House version. Since the Senate bill only has to save the same amount of the House bill for it to qualify under Senate rules, McConnell could use that difference to include incentives for individual senators.
In addition to reiterating her opposition to the bill, Collins also criticised President Donald Trump’s approach to the healthcare debate.
“This president is the first president in our history who has had neither political nor military experience,” Collins said. “Thus, it has been a challenge to him to learn how to interact with Congress and how to push his agenda forward. I also believe it would have been better had the president started with infrastructure, which has bipartisan support, rather than tackling a political divisive and technically complicated issue like healthcare.”
Collins said she would go to the White House along with the rest on the Senate GOP conference for a meeting with Trump on healthcare at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday.