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Sunday, February 23, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Washington and Idaho senators split along party lines ahead of health care vote

UPDATED: Mon., July 24, 2017

By Drew Gerber The Spokesman-Review

Washington and Idaho’s congressional delegations are predictably split along party lines ahead of a vote Tuesday to open discussion on the Republican repeal-and-replace health care bill.

While it is unclear even to many of the senators expected to cast a vote on exactly which version of the health care bill Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell will attempt to bring to the floor, Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell spoke in opposition Monday to “Trumpcare” in any form.

“Republican leaders not only didn’t fix the problems, they made them a whole lot worse,” Murray said on the Senate floor. “I hope that my Republican colleagues – especially those who have already indicated that they oppose this bill and process – will demand better for their constituents.”

Murray strongly criticized the secretive process Republicans used in crafting and revising their health care bill, but she also emphasized that her Republican colleagues should listen to their constituents “whose lives have changed and even been saved by this law.”

On the other side of the aisle, Republican Sen. Jim Risch said in a statement to The Spokesman-Review that he continues to believe that repeal-and-replace of the ACA is necessary – although Risch did not say which version of the bill he would prefer.

“Health care is one of – if not the most – complex and personal issues … and it is incredibly hard to resolve,” the Idaho senator, who voted against the ACA in 2010, said. “Having said that, my colleagues and I will continue to work on this until we have a solution.”

Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo’s communications director Lindsay Nothern said in a statement that the senator intends to vote to open discussion on a health care bill. Crapo voted against the ACA in 2010.

“The Senator’s offices are hearing from Idahoans on both sides of this issue and he appreciates the feedback he has received,” Nothern said. “As this process continues he will keep those comments in mind, but his overall focus is on repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a market-oriented health care system that improves access and affordability for everyone.”

Sen. Cantwell said she was “flabbergasted” that the Senate was being asked to vote on any of the health care bills, and she specifically cited the Senate bills’ deep cuts to Medicaid as something that President Donald Trump had opposed as a candidate.

Both Washington senators asked Republican lawmakers to put aside the current bills to work with Democrats on fixing problems with the Affordable Care Act.

“Don’t play politics with health care. Let’s get a solution that works, and works on both sides of the aisle,” Cantwell said.

The Republican Senate leadership may try to vote on any of the following: the first draft of its Better Care Reconciliation Act, which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said would cause 22 million Americans to lose their health insurance; a similar second draft of the BCRA; a 2015 repeal bill that passed the House of Representatives and is estimated to cause 32 million to lose coverage; or the version of the American Health Care Act that narrowly passed the House in May.

Under the reconciliation process, Republican leadership only need 50 of their 52 members in the Senate to vote in favor of a bill – Vice President Mike Pence, as president of the Senate, could cast a tie-breaking vote. However, McConnell may struggle to get the votes necessary to even open debate on any of the health care bills after they have been plagued by Republican defections and huge unpopularity with the public.

A vote in July was torpedoed when Sen. Mike Lee, of Utah, and Sen. Jerry Moran, of Kansas, jointly announced their opposition to the bill because they didn’t believe it went far enough in repealing the ACA. The two conservative Republicans joined Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who were also vocal opponents. With members like Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Nevada Sen. Dean Heller still seemingly reluctant to vote in favor of the current bill, and with Arizona Sen. John McCain absent following a cancer diagnosis last week, the legislative math stands in McConnell’s way.

Additionally, though House Republicans have said they would likely approve any version of the bill passed by the Senate, Arizona Rep. Trent Franks said early this month that if Senate rules required provisions restricting abortion to be thrown out – they do – it would be a dealbreaker.

President Donald Trump has jumped back and forth between demanding a repeal-and-replace bill, a simple repeal, and just “letting Obamacare fail.”

“If Republicans don’t Repeal and Replace the disastrous ObamaCare, the repercussions will be far greater than any of them understand!” the president tweeted Sunday night.

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