Senate Democrats asked Republicans on Tuesday to drop their bid to repeal Barack Obama’s health care law, offering to help improve the nation’s health care system if they did. On television talk shows and congressional town hall meetings, the GOP drive showed no signs of fading from public view.
Five days after the House narrowly approved a GOP health care bill after months of internal divisions, Democrats used a letter to Republican leaders arguing that the legislation faces “an uncertain path to the president’s desk.”
Facing solid Democratic opposition and controlling the Senate 52-46, Republicans can lose only two GOP senators’ votes but prevail with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie. “If repeal is abandoned, we stand ready to work with you to help all Americans get the affordable health care they need,” said the letter, signed by all 46 Senate Democrats and two independents who side with them.
Democrats wrote that they’d work with the GOP to reduce premiums and drug costs, stabilize insurance markets and help small businesses provide health coverage. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, has appointed a group of GOP senators to craft their version of the legislation.
The lawmakers must resolve Republican differences over the House bill’s Medicaid cuts, federal subsidies to help consumers buy insurance and waivers so states can allow higher premiums for some people with pre-existing medical conditions and ease other Obama consumer protections.
Jimmy Kimmel re-entered the debate last night, along with a GOP senator who named a test for weighing the merits of health legislation after the ABC late night talk show host.
Last week, Kimmel delivered an emotional monologue describing his newborn son’s recent life-saving surgery and saying Congress must pass legislation helping people afford health care. Last night, he mockingly apologized for saying children should have health care, saying, “It was insensitive, it was offensive.”
Appearing as Kimmel’s guest, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La, urged viewers to call Democratic senators and tell them to engage in the health care debate and to tell Republicans to back legislation lowering premiums and providing adequate coverage. “You’re on the right track,” Cassidy told Kimmel. Cassidy added, “Now, we’ve got to be able to pay for it, and that’s the challenge.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis, called the GOP bill “a better system” that would lower premiums today on Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends.” He also defended a House provision allowing insurers to charge older customers five times or more than they charge younger consumers, which has drawn the ire of AARP and other critics. Obama’s law limits that ratio to 3-1, part of its effort to help older people afford coverage.
“That’s the way insurance is priced,” Ryan said of higher premiums for older people. He said as a result of Obama’s shifting of costs away from older people and onto younger ones, “Young people said, ‘I’m not going to do it, I’m just not going to buy the insurance.'”
Meanwhile, Republican Rod Blum, R-Iowa, who voted for the health care bill, walked off an interview with a reporter from KCRG in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. When the reporter asked yesterday why Blum was insisting on seeing identification papers of people attending a town hall meeting, Blum said he wanted attendees from his congressional district, adding, “We don’t want people from Chicago there or Des Moines there or Minneapolis there.”
A visibly upset Blum walked away after the reporter asked if he’d accept campaign donations from outside his district. “I’m done,” Blum said. “This is ridiculous. He’s going to sit here and just badger me.”