Without a single Democrat on board, McConnell cannot lose more than two Republican votes to advance the legislation. Walking that tightrope means appealing to party conservatives without alienating moderates.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Thursday he cannot support the current version of the bill because it preserves too much of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
“The new bill is actually less of a repeal than the old bill,” Paul said, adding that he would vote against bringing the bill to the Senate floor for debate.
And Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who opposes the measure’s deep cuts to Medicaid, confirmed in a tweet Thursday afternoon that she would vote no on a motion to move the bill to the Senate floor for debate.
“Still deep cuts to Medicaid in the Senate bill,” she noted. “Ready to work with GOP Dem colleagues to fix the flaws in ACA.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), whose state has expanded Medicaid and who faces re-election in 2018, is still a holdout.
Separately, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) on Thursday released an alternative proposal. His plan would redirect federal Obamacare funding — some $110 billion in 2016 — to the states via block grants.
“Instead of having a one-size-fits-all solution from Washington, we should return dollars back to the states to address each individual state’s health care needs,” Graham said in a statement.
Vice President Mike Pence, who would cast any tie-breaking vote, if needed, urged the U.S. Senate to get the bill to the President’s desk — and soon.
“This legislation will put American health care back on a path toward more freedom, more choices and more affordability for working families,” Pence said in comments from the White House.
Consumer advocates and health organizations noted little improvement in the revised GOP bill.
Said Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network: “This bill would leave patients and those with pre-existing conditions paying more for less coverage.”
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