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Senate health care bill already in trouble as Republicans voice opposition

  • The health care draft bill Senate Republicans released Thursday morning is already at risk of imploding, after four GOP Senators announced they could not support the plan in its current form.
  • Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said in a statement that they oppose the draft plan in its current form. 
  • That’s more than the two votes Senate Republicans can stand to lose in order for the bill to pass. Read more. (6/22/17, 2:26 PM)

02/07/2017: In a very rare rebuke, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is silenced by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for reading the words of Coretta Scott King while speaking out against the civil rights record of Attorney General appointee Jeff Sessions.

Four GOP senators: We won’t vote for new health care bill

WASHINGTON — In a potentially game-changing move, four conservative senators quickly announced Thursday afternoon that they oppose the health care bill rolled out by Republican Senate leadership earlier in the day.

Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky.; Mike Lee, R-Utah; Ted Cruz, R-Texas and Ron Johnson, R-Wis. said in a statement that the proposal did not go far enough to overhaul the current system.

“There are provisions in this draft that represent an improvement to our current health care system, but it does not appear that this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise that we made to the Americans: to repeal Obamacare and lower their health care costs,” the group said in the release.

With only 52 Republican senators, the bill will fail if the four legislators maintain their opposition. But the senators indicated that they would be open to a revised version of the bill. This means they may attempt to force concessions from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., before the bill is brought to a vote — possibly as soon as next week.

“We are open to negotiation and obtaining more information before it is brought to the floor,” the statement said.

Paul and Lee have been critical of the drafting process in recent days, saying it lacked transparency and indicating that they were not entirely pleased with the final outcome.

Lee and Cruz were part of the 13-member group tasked with drafting the legislation.

“The American people need and deserve to be able to see legislation as it moves through the Senate,” Lee said in a video this week.

Paul has criticized party leadership for having “forgotten” their pledge to repeal Obamacare.

“I mean, we had thousands of people standing up and cheering us on, saying they were going to repeal [Obamacare],” Paul told Bloomberg on Wednesday. “And now they’ve gotten kind of weak-kneed and I think they want to keep it.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) (2nd L) heads for his party’s weekly policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol May 16, 2017 in Washington. Many Republican and Democratic senators expressed frustration and concern about how President Donald Trump may have shared classified intelligence with the Russian foreign minister last week at the White House. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, more moderate Republicans are also skeptical about the bill. These members have expressed reservations about the legislation’s ability to roll back Medicaid expansion and defund Planned Parenthood.

Sen Rob Portman, R-Ohio, are among the members who have advocated most strongly to preserve the Medicaid expansion parts of Obamacare. In an attempt to appease this group, the bill begins phasing out the expansion in four years rather than the previously proposed three.

But it is possible that other changes to the program remain issues.

“I have serious concerns about the bill’s impact on the Nevadans who depend on Medicaid,” Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said.

Related slideshow: ‘Die-in’ protesters dragged away from McConnell’s office >>>

A spokesperson for Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the senator was reviewing the legislation and would wait to see the Congressional Budget Office’s report, which is expected early next week.

Another issue is the bill’s defunding of Planned Parenthood for a year. Collins has previously said that “it is a mistake” to attach funding for the health care provider to the bill, and another lawmaker, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, reportedly pledged to a constituent that she would not vote to defund Planned Parenthood. Both senators reiterated those stances Thursday.

But some conservative Republican lawmakers in both the Senate and the House may bail if the Planned Parenthood provisions were dropped. The House bill, called the American Health Care Act, also defunded Planned Parenthood, and it is unclear whether many lawmakers there would support a bill that did not cut funding for the group.

Other members may object to the funding the bill would allocate combat the opioid abuse epidemic. The Senate legislation offers $2 billion in 2018 to provide grants to states on the issue — a fraction of the amount pushed for by some lawmakers, including Republicans. Portman and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., asked for a larger package: $45 billion.

Capito said in a statement that she was reviewing the bill and examining whether would provide access to care for “those struggling with drug addiction.”

McConnell has indicated he would like a vote on the bill by next Thursday, before Congress goes on its July 4 recess.

Read more from Yahoo News:

The party that couldn't coordinate in the primary can’t coordinate to govern
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) waves to supporters after taking the stage to announce his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination at the Galt House Hotel on April 7, 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky. Around the time it was becoming socially acceptable for political scientists to accept that Donald Trump might win the Republican Party nomination for president, I wrote that perhaps the party had decided not to decide — that Trump offered useful cover for deeper and more intractable problems. While we are no longer living in those innocent times, I stand by two basic premises: Trump was a candidate who crashed the Republican Party, and the conditions within the party allowed that to happen. Read more
I don’t think Edward Snowden deserves the death penalty or life in prison. I think that’s inappropriate. And I think that’s why he fled, because that’s what he faced.
—  Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) • Defending Edward Snowden on ABC News’ This Week. “Do I think that it’s okay to leak secrets and give up national secrets and things that could endanger lives? I don’t think that’s okay, either,” he noted. “But I think the courts are now saying that what he revealed was something the government was doing was illegal." His statement comes after The New York Times and The Guardian each called for Snowden to receive clemency for his whistleblower role, but stands in contrast to former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s feeling on the matter. "From where I sit today, I would not put clemency on the table at all,” she said.
Libertarian All About Big Government

“The party can’t become the opposite of what it is. If you tell people from Alabama, Mississippi or Georgia, ‘You know what, guys, we’ve been wrong, and we’re gonna be the pro-gay-marriage party,’ they’re either gonna stay home or – I mean, many of these people joined the Republican Party because of these social issues. So I don’t think we can completely flip.”

– Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), quoted by the New York Times.

I thought it was “mind your business” and “keep government out of private lives”. Seems the Republican primaries scares some people into saying anything. [His flip-flop on aid to Israel proves he can flip completely.]

Is Rand a libertarian, or was he one to ever begin with? 

A new Bloomberg poll out today shows the former first lady and secretary of state with consistently narrow leads in a series of head-to-head matchups with leading Republican contenders. Among likely voters, Clinton edges out New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney by 6 points each. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) trails by 8 points, while Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) brings up the rear, losing to Clinton by a wide 46% to 33% margin.
Rand Paul Will Filibuster Debt Ceiling Bill

Rand Paul is disgusted that a debt ceiling increase could pass with Republican control of Congress, so he’s going to filibuster the bill to try to stop it.

Written by David Weigel for the Washington Post:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) has called it a “slap in the face to conservatives.” Likely speaker of the House Paul Ryan has said the process that created it “stinks.” But Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is the first Republican to pledge outright that he’ll try to scuttle the compromise debt limit bill designed to kick any tough new vote into 2017.

“I will filibuster the new debt ceiling bill,” Paul said at an event on the University of Colorado’s Denver campus. “It is horrible, it’s hard for me not to use profanity describing it.”

Paul also called the bill a “steaming pile of legislation,” and urged fellow Republicans to join him. But Paul made the same move in 2011, the first time that the debt limit became a serious bargaining chip between Congress and President Obama.

“We will filibuster until we talk about the debt ceiling, until we talk about proposals,” Paul said then, after agonizing negotiations produced a similar punt of the hard votes. “We will actually vote in favor of raising the debt ceiling next week if we can, but it will be contingent on passing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.”

In the end, the balanced budget amendment did not pass. The debt limit compromise did, without Paul’s vote. But Paul’s ambition for this bill is to deny unanimous consent on passage of the House bill, forcing the Senate to work through the weekend, ahead of the Nov. 3 debt limit expiration deadline stated by the Treasury. That, according to Paul’s team, would give Freedom Caucus members – already on record against the deal – time and space to mobilize opposition.

Since making the decision, Paul has heard from a few other senators who would join him in the slow-down. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is not yet among them.