Monday, September 25, 2017

Health care action this week: Following the money and votes in the Senate

Back in August CNN reported that GOP donors withhold $2 million amid Senate failure on health plan, sources say. That was then. This is now reports the NY Times: Behind New Obamacare Repeal Vote: ‘Furious’ G.O.P. Donors

The backlash from big donors as well as the grass roots panicked Senate Republicans and was part of the motivation behind the sudden zeal to take one last crack at repealing the health care law before the end of the month. That effort faltered Friday with new opposition from Senator John McCain of Arizona, the perennial maverick who had scuttled the Senate’s first repeal effort. Now Republicans must confront the possibility that they will once again let down their backers with no big win in sight.

The latest unsightly pileup over health care was exactly what some Republicans had wanted to avoid by abandoning the repeal effort and skipping straight to tax cuts after the previous embarrassing health care collapse about eight weeks ago. Instead, Senate Republicans got caught up in a rushed, last-ditch repeal attempt that not only seems unlikely to prevail, but will only serve to remind disillusioned donors about the party’s governing difficulties.

Republicans say the fund-raising drop-off has been steep and across the board, from big donations to the small ones the party solicits online from the grass roots. They say the hostile views of both large and small donors are in unusual alignment and that the negative sentiment is crystallized in the fund-raising decline.

The totals have left Republicans increasingly worried about having the funds they need next year. Mr. Gardner told his colleagues that a major Colorado contributor who played a role in his own campaign says party donors are reluctant to give any more money until congressional Republicans demonstrate results.

And it appears unlikely that such results will be coming this week as Republicans make desperate bid to save health care bill.

Republican opposition to the GOP health care bill swelled to near-fatal numbers Sunday as Sen. Susan Collins all but closed the door on supporting the last-ditch effort to scrap the Obama health care law and Sen. Ted Cruz said that “right now” he doesn’t back it.

White House legislative liaison Marc Short and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of the measure’s sponsors, said Republicans would press ahead with a vote this week. But the comments by Collins and Cruz left the Republican drive to uproot President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act dangling by an increasingly fraying thread.

A vote must occur this week for Republicans to prevail with their narrow Senate majority. Next Sunday, protections expire against a Democratic filibuster, bill-killing delays that Republicans lack the votes to overcome.

President Donald Trump seemed to distance himself from the showdown, saying his “primary focus” was his party’s drive to cut taxes.

One of the ploys the Republican Senators are trying is out-and-out bribery in order to win over the known “no” votes on the Graham-Cassidy bill: Health care bill teeters, GOP adds money to woo dissidents.

In a late stab at attracting votes, Republicans were adding $14.5 billion to the measure including extra funds for states of dissenting GOP senators, according to documents obtained late Sunday by The Associated Press.

A chart Republicans circulated said the legislation’s grants would provide 14 percent more money for Arizona than under Obama’s law; 4 percent more for Kentucky; 49 percent more for Texas; 3 percent more for Alaska, home to undecided GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski; and 43 percent more for Maine, home to Collins. Some extra money is specifically directed at sparsely populated states.

I don’t see that working. I doubt that McCain will reverse course on his principles (“regular order”), the pot is not all that sweet for Alaska’s Murkowski, and Rand Paul has already asserted he is not open to bribery and bullying. Moreover:

The numbers are misleading, partly because they omit GOP Medicaid cuts from clamping per-person spending caps on the program, said Matt House, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. In a statement, Schumer said the measure would “throw our health insurance system into chaos.”

We’re in for another interesting week.

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