As CBO Analysis Looms, Activists Target Moderates on Healthcare Bill
Economists expect grim news on health coverage losses, as CBO announces score for Better Care Reconciliation Act
The Congressional Budget Office is expected to throw a wrench in the plans of Senate Republicans Monday afternoon when it releases its analysis of the healthcare bill that was introduced last week.
Budget analysts polled by Politico are estimating that 15 million to 22 million Americans would lose health coverage over the next decade, should the bill pass.
Republican leaders are hoping to vote on the Better Care Reconciliation Act by this Thursday, before the Senate breaks for a week-long recess. The GOP can pass the bill with a simple majority vote, which means they can only afford to lose two Republican votes.
The CBO's announcement will follow several days of mounting pressure on so-called moderate Republicans including Rob Portman of Ohio, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, who activists have called on to vote against the bill.
All three senators represent states that expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Hundreds of thousands of their constituents have counted on that expansion for their healthcare since the ACA was passed.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders drew thousands over the weekend as he railed against the "barbaric and immoral" bill at rallies in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.
At a rally attended by nearly 2,000 West Virginians in Charleston on Sunday, Sanders implored Caputo to vote against the bill, saying, "This legislation will cause devastating, unprecedented harm to millions of people in my state, in your state, and all across the country."
West Virginia has the fifth-highest Medicaid enrollment in the country, since it expanded the program in 2014. Twenty-eight percent of the state’s residents rely on the safety net.
Meanwhile, over the weekend, the donor network led by the billionaire Koch brothers indicated it would withhold millions of dollars in funding for Republicans if they failed to enact a bill that met their standards. As the Guardian reports:
One Texas-based donor warned Republican lawmakers that his "Dallas piggy bank" was now closed, until he saw legislative progress.
"Get Obamacare repealed and replaced, get tax reform passed," said Doug Deason. "Get it done and we'll open it back up."
The threat was only further evidence — as critics of Trumpcare have repeatedly stressed — that the real motivation behind the bill is not to reform healthcare, but to give the wealthiest Americans a huge tax break.
The Trump administration is also counting on the bill passing, in order to give the president the first legislative victory of his term. House Speaker Paul Ryan was forced to cancel a vote on the House Republicans' healthcare bill in March, after the CBO announced that the bill would leave 24 million people without health insurance.
As of Monday morning, five Republican senators have expressed doubts about the bill; Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin are concerned that the bill doesn’t go far enough in reversing the ACA, while Senator Dean Heller of Nevada has spoken out about the dangers of eliminating Medicaid coverage.
The three moderate Republicans who were targeted by Sanders this weekend have yet to say how they may vote, but both Johnson and Senator Susan Collins of Maine have indicated their desire that the vote not be rushed, exposing a hopeful crack in leadership's plan to ram the bill through before the upcoming recess.