A Newsy syndicated story via Denver7, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell mashes the pause button on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act while Sen. John McCain of Arizona recovers from surprise surgery Friday:
Senate Republicans were forced to postpone a vote on their party’s health care bill after Sen. John McCain announced he would be home all week recovering from surgery.
McCain revealed he had a blood clot removed from above his left eye on Friday and that he would be spending the upcoming week at home.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the announcement late Saturday. The bill — the majority of which was written behind closed doors — has already been delayed once due to a lack of votes to bring it to the floor.
At least two Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins and Rand Paul — have refused to approve the bill in its current form. Several others have signaled they’re on the fence. And the GOP can only afford to lose two party votes, since every Democrat and both independents oppose it.
It’s a surprise to the public, of course, we have no way of knowing how much advance word may have been given to McConnell that the deciding vote on the so-called Better Care Reconciliation Act would be absent all week from the Senate. And that’s only assuming there are no further defections in the coming days, which seem more or less inevitable–the bill’s support from conservatives resting on an amendment from Sen. Ted Cruz allowing the sale of “bare bones” insurance plans that insurers and moderates say will destabilize the market. But for the sudden absence of Sen. McCain, this would all be coming to a head tomorrow instead of, now, next week.
Meanwhile, continuing analysis of the latest version of the bill unveiled last week continues to indicate large reductions in Medicaid funding vs. current projections–underscoring a falsehood from lots of Republicans including Vice President Mike Pence, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, and Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, who have all claimed “there will be more money going into Medicaid.” You’ve probably already seen this in the Washington Post or somewhere else, but here it is once again:
Trump says Medicaid spending “actually goes up” because he is referring only to the raw dollar increase between $393 billion in 2017 and $464 billion in 2026.
But that omits the other part of the full picture: The Senate bill significantly reduces how much the federal government would spend on Medicaid in future years compared to projections without a change in the current law. It would lead to 15 million fewer Medicaid enrollees by 2026 than there would be if current law stayed in place. For context, Medicaid expansion under Obamacare provided insurance to as many as 14 million more people.
This is why the shift we identified in Gardner’s rhetoric last week, away from protecting Medicaid expansion patients in Colorado to preventing those “most in need” from being “crowded out,” is so important. The latest version of the bill unveiled last week does nothing to address the large reductions in Medicaid funding relative to current law, which will result in millions of Americans and thousands of Coloradans losing their coverage. There’s no way to make that any less destructive without sacrificing support from conservative Senators, and as McCain’s absence demonstrates, McConnell can’t lose any more support.
Which means that if this thing comes to a vote, Gardner will either have to give thousands of Coloradans the shaft, breaking his promises to protect Medicaid patients without any exceptions–or vote against fellow Republicans as the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). Either choice has serious political consequences–for Gardner and the majority he is charged with defending. Everyone wishes McCain a speedy recovery, but we can’t imagine many Republicans are upset about this no-win vote being pushed back yet again.
And that tells you how crazy the whole exercise has become.