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Senate Republicans plan to introduce a new health bill this week, vote next week

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., left, and Senate Majority Whip Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, speak with the media Tuesday, June 27, 2017, in Washington. (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., left, and Senate Majority Whip Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, speak with the media Tuesday, June 27, 2017, in Washington. (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)
By Sean Sullivan, Juliet Eilperin and Kelsey Snell Washington Post

WASHINGTON – Senate leaders are rewriting their health care plan in an effort to vote on it next week, Republican Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Monday, even as some GOP senators expressing deep pessimism about the prospect of reaching a final agreement.

The push for a revised bill comes as Senate Democrats are working to enlist the help of Republican governors to scuttle the current health-care proposal. Some rank-and-file Republicans have suggested their party should negotiate with the minority.

Cornyn said that he expects GOP leaders to unveil a new version of the legislation this week, “and then we’ll vote on it next week.”

At their normal weekly policy lunch Tuesday, Republican senators are expected to hear how their concerns have been addressed, and leaders can measure whether their tweaks are likely to move the needle at all, according to a GOP aide familiar with the talks.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell., R-Ky., declined to say when he will release the new version of the bill.

While the prospect of a compromise between the two parties on overhauling the Affordable Care Act may prove daunting given the ideological divide between Republicans and Democrats on health care, the ongoing conversations among a handful of senators suggests some lawmakers are seeking a new path forward should the current bill collapse.

Sen. Thomas Carper. D-Del., said in an interview that he called “a couple dozen” Republican and Democratic senators and governors over the recess to say “this is a good time for us to hit the pause button in the Senate, and step back and have some good heart-to-heart conversations” about how to revise the 2010 law known as Obamacare.

Carper, who said he had been “encouraged” by what he had heard from his colleagues, said the fact that the National Governors Association was holding its summer meeting in Providence, Rhode Island, later this week could give governors a chance to weigh in on the current debate.

“The governors can play a critical role in helping us get to where we need to be,” Carper said.

However, even as Carper and some of his Democratic colleagues have reached out to Republicans, the White House is pushing back forcefully against the idea of such collaborations. In an interview with radio host Rush Limbaugh on Monday, Vice President Mike Pence questioned those in his party who suggest “we ought to reach out and do a bipartisan bill.” That description could include McConnell himself, who has said he would have to reach out to Democrats to shore up the insurance markets if Republicans fail to pass their own bill.

Pence continued: “The president has made it very clear: We believe that if they can’t pass this carefully crafted repeal and replace bill (where) we do those two things simultaneously, we ought to just repeal only and have enough time built into that legislation to craft replacement legislation in a way that’s orderly and allows states to adjust to different changes to Medicaid in a maybe three-year or four-year window.”

Pence’s endorsement of an outright repeal of the ACA, along with an amendment Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has crafted that would allow insurers to sell minimalist health plans on the ACA insurance market, could further fracture an already divided GOP.

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