Jun 6, 2017

The Senate gets ready for a health care root canal


Senate Republicans are supposed to get their first look at some detailed options for a health care bill today, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushes for a vote before the July 4 recess. The Wall Street Journal reports that some are hoping to get legislation to the Congressional Budget Office by the end of the week.

The odds: Not good. But at this point, some Republicans are ready to just take the vote and be done with it, even if it fails. "It's like a root canal," one Senate GOP aide told Caitlin Owens. "Best to get it over with and move on to things Republicans are good at."

What to watch: As we reported in yesterday's Vitals, aides are expected to give senators some options today on a handful of major sticking points, with a discussion of all of the tradeoffs of each one.

But choosing among those options won't necessarily be easy — the caucus still hasn't coalesced around an approach to Medicaid, an approach to premium subsidies, or even the scope of their bill. Some senators are still hoping to refocus for now on a smaller measure to stabilize state insurance markets, buying them more time to work on a broader set of changes.

Don't forget the Trump factor: President Trump is sure to put more pressure on McConnell this afternoon at a White House meeting with Senate and House GOP leaders, right after the Senate Republican meetings. White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short told reporters last night he expects health care to get done in the summer, pushing tax reform to the fall — and that, "at the end of the day, you will probably see a lot of similarities" with the House-passed bill.

What we're hearing: Sending a bill to CBO by the end of the week would be great, but isn't a hard-and-fast deadline. Republicans could also send the proposal to them next week and still get an estimate back in time to vote before July 4. If it slips beyond that, though, the pre-July 4 vote isn't happening — and then they'll have to decide whether they want to keep dragging it out.

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