McConnell uses bipartisanship to threaten uneasy Republicans on health care
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY). (AFP)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) warned his fellow Republicans that he might reach out for Democratic votes if they can't pass the health care bill written behind closed doors in his office, reported ABC News.

The majority leader is pushing for a new version of the bill by Friday to send to the Congressional Budget Office, after at least eight Republicans came out against the one written with little outside input by McConnell and his staff, reported NBC News.

But McConnell threatened GOP senators that he would seek Democratic input if Republicans didn't rally behind the bill.

“Either Republicans will agree and change the status quo or ... we’ll have to sit down with [Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer,” McConnell said Wednesday, after leaving a White House meeting with President Donald Trump and most of the GOP senators.

A spokesman for the majority leader declined to elaborate on the remark, and his aides insisted that McConnell's comments did not signal a new direction in his efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

NBC News reported that Democrats are beginning to splinter, with some seeing an opportunity to push for single-payer health insurance and others preferring to make modest changes to the GOP bill.

Democrats aligned with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) would prefer to push for a more progressive health care system than what's set out in the Affordable Care Act, and they see Republican division as a possible opening.

"It’s a good jobs program if you expand health care to everybody," said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH). "You can’t outsource an occupational therapist, you can’t outsource a physical therapist, you can’t outsource a nurse who does cancer screenings. Those are jobs that could be right here in the United States of America, and we’ll be healthier and prevent a lot of diseases and bend the cost curve on health care, which is the goal we’re trying to accomplish now."

Sanders, who has long been an advocate for a single-payer system, has also pleaded with his colleagues to work to expand coverage and to reject the GOP bill.

But Schumer and several other Democrats have signaled they're willing to work with McConnell and other Republicans -- including President Donald Trump, who they invited to a bipartisan meeting with all senators.

Moderate Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) have been saying since last year's election that they're willing to make changes to Obamacare -- as long as Republicans agree not to repeal the law or sabotage it for political gain.

Manchin and several other Democrats have co-sponsored a bill that would add a cheaper catastrophic plan to the insurance exchanges, among other minor changes.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) introduced legislation that would allow people in counties without insurers to buy from the same exchanges used by lawmakers, and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) has proposed letting insurers to sell across state lines.