President Donald Trump on Sunday and Monday sounded a renewed call for action by Congress to overhaul the Obama health law, even as GOP Senators raised more red flags about whether Republicans can even come to an agreement on a health care bill, as there was little evidence that a ten day break had broken the ice on the issue, which has left Republicans in Congress – and the President – frustrated at the lack of final action.
“I listened as Republicans pushed the Repeal and Replace of ObamaCare,” the President tweeted on Sunday afternoon. “Now they finally have their chance!”
Here’s the latest on health care:
1. The President wants action – can he broker a deal? While Mr. Trump has repeatedly made clear that he wants a deal on a Senate GOP health care bill, can he produce that piece of legislative magic? The President has weighed in with individual Republican Senators in recent weeks, trying to cajole reluctant Senators into supporting a GOP bill, much as he did when House Republicans were going through a mental struggle to find a majority of votes. But so far, a deal has been elusive in the Senate, as GOP leaders seem even further away from paydirt now than when they left town on June 29. “ObamaCare is dead!” Mr. Trump has tweeted in the past. But at this point, it’s still alive as Republicans struggle to get behind a bill to make changes.
2. What has changed during the latest recess? While there have been different ideas floated over the last ten days, nothing seems to have garnered traction in a way that would unite conservative and moderate GOP Senators on health care – at least nothing that has been made public at this point. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) wants a plan that would let insurance companies offer plans that are compliant with the Obama health law, and less expensive insurance plans that feature less coverage. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has joined with the President in urging a simple repeal of the Obama health law, and then waiting until later to figure out how to replace it. But nothing has seemed to bring about a “Eureka!” moment for the GOP, as the Senate Majority Leader in recent days once more said if the GOP can’t agree on a plan, something will have to be done to shore up the current system. This weekend, one Washington Post reporter asked the number two Republican in the Senate what has changed. “Can you describe for us the progress you have made since June 28?” The answer was, wait and see.
3. Not the greatest signals from some GOP Senators. During this Congressional recess, there was certainly no groundswell of support from GOP Senators for the draft health care plan that was revealed in late June. Instead, there were more questions raised from some Senators who are seen as pretty reliable Republicans from Farm Country – Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND). These are not the votes that should be in limbo for GOP leaders at this point in time. Still, I have to again remind everyone that we went through a similar situation in the House, where it looked like a legislative disaster, and then a bill was ultimately passed. But there is no sense of momentum for Republicans in the Senate right now.
4. Some Senators feeling the heat in new ads. Remembering how the House was able to pass a health reform bill – even though it looked like the GOP had run aground on the idea – supporters of the Obama health law are mustering new ads against certain key GOP Senators. The liberal group Center for American Progress says it is spending seven figures to run ads to ratchet up the health care pressure on Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), three very important votes in the Senate.
5. What’s the possible schedule for a vote? As the Senate returns to session on Monday, no one really seems to have an answer for ‘when’ there might be a vote – the best guess is, ‘whenever Republicans have 50 votes.’ Democrats are just on the sidelines at this point, as they wait and see if the GOP can come together on a plan – or not. As I discussed in a story this weekend, there isn’t much time for the GOP to figure out a deal on health care, as there are only three legislative work weeks scheduled between now and Labor Day. Yes, it’s still possible that Congress could work on into August, but I think that only happens if there is an actual bill to be voted on by lawmakers; it seems unlikely they will hang out in the heat and humidity of Washington, D.C. just hoping for a health care deal. But if President Trump starts making noise about that, look for a lot of people to send that message to Congressional Republicans.