Obamacare repeal on the ropes as pivotal Republican rebuffs Trump
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Susan Collins rebuffed intense lobbying from fellow Republicans and the promise of money for her state in deciding on Monday to oppose – and likely doom – her party’s last-ditch effort to repeal Obamacare.
The most moderate of Republican senators joined John McCain and Rand Paul in rejecting the bill to end Obamacare. It was a major blow for President Donald Trump who has made undoing Democratic former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law a top priority since the 2016 campaign and who pressured Collins in a call on Monday.
The bill’s sweeping cut in funding to Medicaid, a program for low income citizens and disabled children, was her top reason for opposing the bill, said Collins, from the state of Maine where 20 percent of the population depend on the program.
“To take a program that has been law for more than 50 years, and make those kinds of fundamental structural changes … and to do so without having in depth hearings to evaluate the impact on our most vulnerable citizens was unacceptable,” Collins said outside the Senate chambers.
She also opposed the bill for weakening protections for people with pre-existing conditions, such as asthma, cancer and diabetes.
Collins’ decision came even after the sponsors of the bill, Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, offered a boost in federal health care funds of 43 percent for Maine and benefits for states with other undecided senators.
Republicans have vowed to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, since it was passed in 2010. While it extended health insurance to some 20 million Americans, they believe it is an unwarranted and costly government intrusion into healthcare, while also opposing taxes it imposed on the wealthy.
Republicans hold a slim 52-48 majority in the Senate and are up against a tight September 30 deadline to pass a bill with a simple majority, instead of the 60-vote threshold needed for most measures. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wanted to hold a vote this week, but it is not clear he will do so now that three senators have said they will cast “no” votes.