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Senate health care bill on brink of collapse, vote tally shows

By CBS News 8:24 AM July 17, 2017

Two Republican senators have already said they’ll oppose a second version of leadership’s health care plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, and one more could kill the bill, although, with Arizona Senator John McCain’s absence, the vote has been delayed.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) was expected to release a cost estimate of the revised legislation Monday, but on Sunday said that estimate would be delayed. Some Republican senators had been awaiting the CBO score before deciding on whether they’d support the bill.

However, CBO was not going to have time to analyze the Cruz amendment by Monday, CBS News’ Nancy Cordes reports. This amendment constitutes the biggest change from the first bill. Cruz’s proposal would allow insurance companies to offer bare-bones insurance plans alongside Obamacare-compliant plans that would be more expensive, but that would also provide comprehensive coverage. It is likely that younger, healthier individuals would gravitate toward the skimpy plans, and sicker people would buy the Obamacare-approved plans, which is a formulation that the industry predicts will result in exceedingly high premiums for sick people.

CBO’s score of the original plan projected that 22 million more people would without health insurance over the next decade.

But over the weekend, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the vote on the plan would be delayed because Arizona Republican John McCain will be absent from this week’s debate as he recuperates from surgery to remove a blood clot from his eye.

McConnell said in a statement, the Senate would instead continue their work on “legislative items and nominations.”

In order to open debate on the bill and begin the amendment process, Senate Republicans need 51 votes to agree to a motion to proceed, with one being the Vice President’s tie-breaking vote.

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Sens. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, plan to oppose that motion. After the revamped measure was released Thursday, a number of senators said they were undecided on how they’d vote.

Paul told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that while the vote is delayed, he hopes the extra time will allow his Republican colleagues to see that the bill does not offer a clean repeal of the ACA.

“I think the longer the bill’s out there, the more conservative Republicans are going to discover that it’s not repeal. And the more that everybody’s going to discover that it keeps the fundamental flaw of Obamacare,” said Paul.

Initially, Collins had said it was likely she’d vote no, pending the CBO analysis, but she then switched to a firm no, over the fact that the steep cuts to Medicaid in the first version remained unchanged in the second.

Moderate Republican Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Dean Heller of Nevada told CBS News following the release of the current iteration of the Senate’s plan and an all-hands GOP meeting, that they needed more time to review the legislation before making up their minds on whether to support it.

Aides to Portman told CBS News on Wednesday that he had concerns with the proposed cuts to Medicaid in the previous draft of the bill and had yet to receive any assurance from McConnell’s office that the cuts would be changed.

Read more at CBSNews.com.

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