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After weeks of secrecy, Senate to unveil healthcare bill

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U.S. Senate Republicans plan to unveil the text of their draft healthcare bill on Thursday as senators struggle over issues such as the future of the Medicaid program for the poor and bringing down insurance costs.

Republicans in the chamber have been working for weeks behind closed doors on legislation aimed at repealing and replacing major portions of the Affordable Care Act, former Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, popularly known as Obamacare.

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The effort has been plagued from the start by tensions between moderates and conservatives, which surfaced again on Tuesday. Democrats have also criticized the behind-the-scenes meetings, staging a protest on the Senate floor on Monday.

“Republicans are writing their healthcare bill under the cover of darkness because they are ashamed of it,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer charged.

President Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to repeal Obamacare. The 2010 law extended insurance coverage to millions of Americans through both subsidized private insurance and an expansion of Medicaid.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives narrowly approved its version of repeal last month.

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Trump has urged the Republican-led Senate to pass a more “generous” bill than that approved by the House, whose version he privately called “mean,” according to congressional sources.

An estimated 23 million people could lose their healthcare under the House plan, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday the Senate healthcare bill would be different from the House version, but he did not elaborate.

In the Senate, moderates including Senator Shelley Moore Capito have argued for a long, seven-year phase-out to the Medicaid expansion that happened under Obamacare. But Senator John Thune, a member of the Republican leadership, said on Tuesday the phase-out in the bill might just be three years.

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Capito said on Tuesday she was also concerned the Senate healthcare plan might cap Medicaid spending and shift it to a lower growth rate in 2025. “That’s an issue,” she said.

CONSERVATIVES WARY

Senate conservatives also seemed wary of the emerging bill. Ted Cruz, a member of a core group of 13 Republicans who have been working on the legislation, told reporters the bill did not yet do enough to lower health insurance premiums. “If it is going to pass, the bill is going to have to make meaningful steps to reduce premiums,” he said.

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Given the opposition of all Senate Democrats to repealing Obamacare, Republican leaders will need the support of at least 50 of the chamber’s 52 Republicans to ensure passage.

McConnell announced a discussion draft would be laid out on Thursday. The bill will be brought to the Senate floor once the CBO has assessed its cost and impact, “likely next week,” McConnell said.

Thune said the bill was not yet finalized, saying: “We’re trying to get definitive determinations” on a range of issues.

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Vice President Mike Pence predicted that new healthcare legislation would be enacted this summer.

“I want to assure you, before this summer is over … President Donald Trump and this Congress will keep their promise to the American people, and we will repeal and replace Obamacare,” Pence told a meeting of the National Association of Manufacturers.

(Editing by Caren Bohan and Peter Cooney)


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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Rick Santorum squirms as CNN’s Erin Burnett asks if he agrees that a war hero is out to get Trump

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On Tuesday's edition of CNN's "OutFront," former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) tied his tongue in knots after anchor Erin Burnett asked him if he agreed with President Donald Trump and his allies that decorated war heroes and longtime civil servants with bipartisan accolades are secretly plotting to destroy his presidency.

"Congressman Zeldin and Jordan have tried to suggest that Bill Taylor, the lead witness, top diplomat to Ukraine, three decades of public service, Bronze Star in Vietnam, 101st Airborne, many other things, someone who is lauded by both Democrats and Republicans — they've said he's not credible, and they've said that he and others who have testified that have testified negatively about the president are Never Trumpers?" said Burnett.

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Rep Mark Meadows has been the White House ‘sherpa’ on impeachment — and may be next chief of staff: report

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Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget who also works as the acting White House chief of staff, is struggling in his job as the impeachment inquiry moves to the public hearings phase.

"Mick Mulvaney is isolated, marginalized and growing more irrelevant to the West Wing staff he’s meant to lead during one of the most consequential moments of the Trump presidency," Politico reported.

Mulvaney is increasingly out of the loop on impeachment.

"Though the White House’s acting chief of staff is still participating in impeachment meetings and working out of the White House, the strategy is increasingly being driven by White House lawyers, legislative affairs team and top officials from the press and communications shops who spent the week setting up a rapid-response team and developing plans to push back on witnesses’ testimony in real-time," Politico reported. "It’s an awkward staff situation that mirrors so many moments of the Trump presidency: aides trying to proceed with business as usual while unusual dramas play out, and the very people expected to lead the effort instead witnessing jockeying by potential replacements."

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GOP will struggle to fight impeachment when the key piece of evidence is Trump’s own words: CNN commentator

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On Tuesday's edition of CNN's "The Situation Room," Washington Post reporter David Swerdlick noted a key problem Republicans will likely run into when the public impeachment hearings start this week.

"Will this hearing give Republicans, potentially, some opportunities to find cracks in the Democrats' case?" asked anchor Wolf Blitzer.

"If Democrats handle these hearings like they handled the last hearing with Cory Lewandowski, or if they handle it like that last hearing where Robert Mueller testified, then yes, Republicans will have opportunities, because Democrats, tactically, did not do a good job of laying out a story that was easy for the viewer at home to follow," said Swerdlick. "That being said, on the substance, I think it'll be tough for Republicans to poke holes in Democrats' case, because the central piece of evidence that Democrats will be putting forward is that partial transcript that the White House itself released of the July 25th call between President Trump and President Zelensky. And the rest of the witnesses are corroborating the basic narrative that Democrats want."

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