POC: McConnell Delays Senate Recess To Work On Healthcare, Other GOP Agenda Items

NYAPRS Note: Senate leaders plan to move forward next week with a procedural vote on their health care bill, although they are still struggling to scrape together the required 50 votes for passage. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed that an updated text will be released by Thursday. A new CBO score of that bill is expected early next week before the vote. Also, see below about a new proposal under development by Senator Lindsay Graham that will be presented to Senate Democrats.

McConnell Delays Senate Recess To Work On Healthcare, Other GOP Agenda Items
Protect Our Care Executive Briefing July 12, 2017

Senate Majority Leader McConnell said Monday that he will cut the Senate’s August recess in half, delaying its start until the third week of August to give Republicans more time to pursue their legislative agenda, particularly healthcare. Coverage of McConnell’s decision is fairly pessimistic, however, with many reports highlighting the difficulty GOP leaders are having winning votes from the moderate and conservative wings of the caucus – and casting doubt on whether the GOP plan can ultimately pass. 

The Washington Post reports that while McConnell said Republicans need “more time to achieve its legislative goals given the protracted negotiations over health-care legislation and continued opposition from Democrats on several fronts.” 
The Washington Times calls the cancellation” a seismic shift for lawmakers who treasure their time away from Washington,” adding that the decision came “after rank-and-file Republicans said they would be embarrassed to return home and face constituents without having made a bigger dent in their agenda.” 

Reuters reports that McConnell said Tuesday “he would unveil a revised version” of the healthcare bill on Thursday, and “said he hoped to have a fresh analysis of the bill from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office at the start of the week.” McConnell “did not disclose any of the changes to legislation that some Republican moderates and hard-line conservatives have opposed.” 

The Hill reports that senators “said the Medicaid sections of the bill would remain largely unchanged from the initial draft, a blow to moderates who had pushed for easing cuts to Medicaid.” The Hill adds that while revisions to the Senate bill “are aimed at winning over additional support...it remains deeply in doubt whether the bill can get 50 votes.” 
According to the New York Times (7/11, Kaplan, Pear), Republicans “appeared to be well short of the support needed to pass the legislation.” To the Times, “a sense of pessimism was apparent among Senate Republicans after their return from break,” and “deep divisions in their ranks...still posed a big obstacle to finding the votes to pass a revised bill.” On MSNBC’s Morning Joe (7/11), Sen. Bill Cassidy described “a continued divide,” and added, “Hopefully the new bill will bridge that divide, If not, there may be another solution yet.” 

The Washington Post says that “Republican after Republican outlines the reasons that they stand opposed to the legislation, as currently written, with almost no one taking up the mantle of defending a proposal that was unpopular from day one.” Part of their “hesitation to directly promote their own health proposal is its uncertain fate, its unpopularity in repeated public polling and the sense that it might die on the Senate floor in what will be a politically embarrassing defeat for a party that promised to repeal the ACA the moment that Democrats approved it seven years ago.” 

An AP (7/11, Werner) analysis says Republicans are in “a no-win situation” as success on healthcare legislation “could alienate a majority of the population,” and “failure could anger the crucial group of GOP base voters the party relies on to build election victories.” 
According to Politico, an amendment from Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee “to allow the sale of cheap, deregulated insurance plans” is “fracturing the conference, with the measure taking center stage at the party’s first caucus lunch in nearly two weeks on Tuesday.” Republicans “can only lose two votes and the Cruz amendment is quickly splintering the party, alienating the moderates who worry it could drive up prices for sicker Americans.” 

The New York Post (7/11, Morrongiello) says that in a “stunning announcement,” Sen. Lindsey Graham discussed “a parallel push by some Republicans to introduce a separate ObamaCare replacement bill with bipartisan appeal.” Graham said details of the plan would likely be released in the “next 24 to 48 hours,” which, the Post notes is “around the same time McConnell is set to unveil his own bill.” Hunt said on NBC Nightly News (7/11, story 5, 2:05, Holt) that Graham is “talking about cracking a deal with Democrats.”