US Republicans scramble to clinch votes for healthcare Bill

Protesters angry at the proposed Republican healthcare reforms shouting at lawmakers leaving the US Capitol  in this file photo taken on May 4, 2017.
Protesters angry at the proposed Republican healthcare reforms shouting at lawmakers leaving the US Capitol in this file photo taken on May 4, 2017.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - Senate Republican leaders scrambled on Sunday (June 25) to rally support for their healthcare Bill as opposition continued to build inside and outside Congress, and as several Republican senators questioned whether it would be approved this week.

President Donald Trump expressed confidence that the Bill to repeal the guts of his predecessor Barak Obama's Affordable Care Act would pass.

"Healthcare is a very, very tough thing to get," Trump said in an interview shown on Sunday on Fox News. "But I think we're going to get it. We don't have too much of a choice, because the alternative is the dead carcass of Obamacare."

With Democrats solidly opposed to the legislation, Senate Republicans must find the votes from within. They can afford to lose only two votes, but five Republican senators have announced that they cannot support the healthcare Bill as drafted, and others have expressed concerns.

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Senate leaders have been trying to lock down Republican votes by funnelling money to red states, engineering a special deal for Alaska and arguing that they could insure more people at a lower cost than the House, which passed a repeal Bill last month.

But as more analysis of the Bill reached state officials, especially in places that expanded Medicaid access under the Affordable Care Act, misgivings grew.

Republican Senator Bill Cassidy, a doctor who is considered a critical vote, said he remained undecided. Louisiana, with its high levels of poverty, recently expanded Medicaid.

"There are things in this Bill which adversely affect my state, that are peculiar to my state," Cassidy said on CBS' Face the Nation.

The Bill was drafted in secret, mainly by the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who unveiled it onThursday. McConnell wants a vote this week, before lawmakers take a break for the Fourth of July holiday.

Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas, usually a reliable vote for Senate Republican leaders, said on Fox News: "I just don't know whether the votes will be there by the end of the week."

Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said on Sunday that "there's no way we should be voting" on the legislation this week. "No way."