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10 senators to watch in the health care debate

Dylan Scott covers health care for Vox. He has reported on health policy for more than 10 years, writing for Governing magazine, Talking Points Memo and STAT before joining Vox in 2017.

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You might have heard: The House finally did it. They passed the American Health Care Act, 217 to 213.

Now it's the Senate's turn.

The House plan is going to run into a lot of land mines in the upper chamber, as I reported today — though top senators are saying they will write their own bill.

Republican senators don't like the AHCA's Medicaid cuts. They're worried about the consequences for people with high medical costs. A few of them oppose defunding Planned Parenthood, as the House bill does. We have a long way to go.

There are fewer lawmakers to keep track of in the Senate, thank goodness. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and key committee chairs Lamar Alexander and Orrin Hatch will play a big role, of course.

Here are the other senators you should be watching:

Susan Collins of Maine: Collins opposes defunding Planned Parenthood and told me this week she's worried about how people with preexisting conditions would be affected by the House bill.

Rob Portman of Ohio: Portman spearheaded a letter in early March criticizing the initial House bill for its Medicaid cuts. He is working on an amendment to change the Medicaid expansion phaseout, though we don't yet know how.

Lisa Murkowski of Alaska: Murkowski signed the Portman letter, opposes defunding Planned Parenthood, and is worried that the House bill could uniquely harm her home state.

Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia: Capito also signed the Portman letter. She told me this week she still has issues with the AHCA's Medicaid cuts.

Cory Gardner of Colorado: The fourth signer of the Portman letter.

Bill Cassidy of Louisiana: Cassidy has been an enthusiastic participant in the early days of the health care debate. He drafted a bill with Collins that would let states decide whether they wanted to stick with Obamacare or create their own health care program.

Dean Heller of Nevada: Heller said after the House vote that he would not support the bill as written over his concerns about the Medicaid cuts and its effect on people with preexisting conditions, as my colleague Jeff Stein reported. He is also already facing attacks from Democrats because the House bill defunds Planned Parenthood.

Tom Cotton of Arkansas: Cotton is a staunch conservative, but his state expanded Medicaid through Obamacare, and he has signaled he wants to see people covered by the expansion taken care of.

Rand Paul of Kentucky: Paul was a fierce critic of the original House bill, even leading reporters on a romp through the Capitol to find it after House leaders refused to release the text.

Mike Lee of Utah: Lee, like Paul, attacked the original version of the House bill from the right. Whether he was satisfied by the changes to the bill that won over House conservatives, or whether he pushes for more, will be an important question.

Chart of the Day

Javier Zarracina/Vox

The House AHCA vote. The margin was razor-thin. With 430 lawmakers voting, Republicans needed 216 votes to pass the bill. They got 217.

Kliff’s Notes

Your daily top health care reads, with research help from Caitlin Davis

A lot happened in health care today. My fine colleagues covered it from every angle:

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