Just hours after Senate Republican leaders released their health care bill on Thursday, four conservative senators announced that they are “not ready to vote for” the bill — enough to block it from passage, should they hold firm.
However, the senators also made clear they were “open to negotiation,” signaling that they could come around if they win policy concessions they deem sufficient.
With no Democratic support expected, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can only afford to lose the support of two Republican senators in his 52-member conference. If he loses three, the bill will fail.
And now, Sens. Rand Paul (KY), Mike Lee (UT), Ted Cruz, (TX), and Ron Johnson (WI) have decided to plant a flag early — declaring their opposition to the bill in a statement, apparently in hopes of winning concessions that move it in a conservative direction.
“It does not appear this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise that we made to Americans: to repeal Obamacare and lower their health care costs,” the senators write.
That’s only the beginning of McConnell’s problems. He’ll also have to lock down enough support from moderate senators concerned about coverage losses and Medicaid cuts — people like Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Dean Heller (NV), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Shelley Moore Capito (WV) — who have all been noncommittal on the bill so far.
This replicates a similar dynamic we saw in the House of Representatives, where the demands of the right-wing Freedom Caucus (who wanted to roll back more of Obamacare’s insurance market regulations) and a sort of Coverage Caucus (who claimed to be concerned about their constituents losing insurance) seemed to be diametrically opposed.
House Republicans eventually crafted a compromise that was sufficient to satisfy enough members of both camps and get the bill through the chamber. But there’s less margin for error in the Senate, since the GOP’s majority is smaller.