HARI SREENIVASAN: The battle lines are forming tonight in the Senate over replacing Obamacare. Republican leaders released details of their bill today, but Democrats are rejecting it outright, and some in the GOP are not happy either.
Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky., Majority Leader: It’s time to act, because Obamacare is a direct attack on the middle class, and American families deserve better than its failing status quo.
LISA DESJARDINS: After weeks of work behind closed doors, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the Senate Republican bill public this morning. It shares some broad strokes with the bill that House Republicans passed in may. It would cut Medicaid overall and impose annual limits on spending. It also repeals the individual mandate penalty under Obamacare, and it would end most of the taxes that paid for the Affordable Care Act.
The bill lets states waive required coverage of essential health benefits. That’s things like mental health and hospital care. And it blocks federal funds to Planned Parenthood for one year and for health plans that cover most abortions.
Democrats unanimously oppose the measure.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer:
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., Minority Leader: Simply put, this bill will result in higher costs, less care, and millions of Americans will lose their health insurance, particularly through Medicaid. It’s every bit as bad as the House bill. In some ways, it’s even worse.
LISA DESJARDINS: House Speaker Paul Ryan welcomed the Senate’s action, without getting into the details.
REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis., Speaker of the House: I know how hard this is to pass a bill like this. What was helpful to us, that we didn’t have Senate leadership playing armchair quarterback with us. The last thing I want to do is play armchair quarterback with them.
LISA DESJARDINS: The Senate did break with the House on a few issues. The Senate bill would phase out the expansion of Medicaid, but more slowly than the House, ending it by 2024. But, starting in 2025, the Senate would cut all of Medicaid more deeply than the House. The Senate plan also keeps protections for people with preexisting conditions, while the House bill would let states waive those.
And the Senate bill continues Obamacare subsidies, but limits them to a smaller group of lower-income people. Schumer says, taken as a whole, the changes mean any benefits are in name only.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER: The Senate Republican health care bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Only, this Wolf has even sharper teeth than the House bill.
LISA DESJARDINS: Disability advocates and others protested today outside Majority Leader McConnell’s office. Capitol Police arrested a number of them.
Republican leaders argued that opponents need to look at the actual text before criticizing.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN, R-Texas: They can read the bill. If they have objections to the provisions, we can debate them. But what they’re talking about is a bill that doesn’t exist which they had not read.
LISA DESJARDINS: At the White House, President Trump voiced support and stressed this is not a final draft.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Obamacare is a disaster. It’s dead, totally dead. And we’re putting a plan today that’s going to be negotiated.
LISA DESJARDINS: Those negotiations started instantly. Republicans can afford for just two of their members to vote no. And, today, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and three other Republicans said they oppose it as written.
SEN. RAND PAUL, R-Ky.: And I believe the leverage on account of four people is enough that hopefully those who wrote the bill would say we want some or all of their votes, and, therefore, we will try to make the bill look more like a repeal bill and less like a reiteration of Obamacare bill.
LISA DESJARDINS: The Congressional Budget Office says it will have its analysis of the bill by early next week. McConnell is pushing for a vote two or three days after that.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Lisa will be back to help us analyze the political prospects for the Senate Republican health care bill after the news summary.