Senate GOP leaders delay health care vote until after July 4 recess

WASHINGTON — In a bruising setback, Senate Republican leaders are delaying a vote on their prized health care bill until after the July 4 recess, forced to retreat by a GOP rebellion that left them lacking enough votes to even begin debating the legislation.

“As I think you may have already heard, we’re going to continue the discussions in our conference on the differences we have,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday afternoon.

McConnell first delivered the message to GOP senators at a private lunch attended by Vice President Mike Pence and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.

GOP senators then traveled to the White House later Tuesday to meet with President Donald Trump.

“Well, I thought I’d ask you folks to come say hello, and we’ll discuss healthcare,” Trump said. “So we’re going to talk and we’re going to see what we can do. We’re getting very close. But for the country, we have to have healthcare. And it can’t be Obamacare, which is melting down.”

McConnell had hoped to push the measure through his chamber by this week’s end, before an Independence Day recess that party leaders fear will be used by foes of the legislation to tear away support.

Meantime governors across the country, including Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, are monitoring the developments closely, knowing cuts to overall funding for Medicaid are a big piece of the plan.

“Well ultimately there will be some hard decisions that will have to be made,” Holcomb said Monday. “I will be prepared to make sure we care for Hoosiers. My laser focus is on the people of Indiana.”

About one in five Hoosiers are covered by Medicaid totaling roughly 1.4 million residents statewide.

About 400,000 of those Hoosiers receive care through HIP 2.0, the state’s own version of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act championed by then Gov. Mike Pence. But Indiana law requires the program to be phased out if federal funding is cut, as the Senate plan dictates, unless new funding options are secured.

“Ultimately state policy makers would be left with some very difficult choices about having to cut back the number of people covered,” Brian Tabor said, with the Indiana Hospital Association, which publicly opposes the plan.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated Monday federal Medicaid spending would drop by $772 billion over the next decade. Indiana officials have yet to talk publicly about specific state impact.

As a result in a letter, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) has asked Holcomb for specific on the state response, specifically related to Medicaid and HIP 2.0, which Donnelly’s office said Tuesday they haven’t heard a response.

Indiana’s Republican Senator Todd Young also has yet to publicly say whether he would vote for the bill as is.

“I certainly hope upon further examination I’ll conclude all the positive things I’ve highlighted here are enough to persuade me and others to get to yes,” Young said last Thursday.

The bill rolling back much of President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law has been one of the party’s top priorities for years, and the delay is a major embarrassment to Trump and McConnell. At least five GOP senators — conservatives and moderates — had said they would vote against beginning debate.

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