Hub for reliable, timely news about COVID-19 pandemic

“I’m concerned:” Senate GOP delays vote on health care bill; Sen. Johnson says ‘yes’ vote in jeopardy

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.
Data pix.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Senate Republicans have been forced to delay a vote on their health care bill as U.S. Sen. John McCain recovers from surgery, and the GOP leadership's problems again include Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson.

McCain's office says the senator will rest in Arizona this week after doctors performed a craniotomy, opening his skull to remove a blood clot above his left eye. Without him, Republicans do not have the votes to even begin debate on their health care bill.

Senator Ron Johnson

Meanwhile, Johnson sharply criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over McConnell's reported comments that Johnson's preferred Medicaid changes may never happen.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

"I am concerned about Leader McConnell's comments to - apparently - some of my Republican colleagues that, 'Don't worry about some of the Medicaid reforms. Those are scheduled so far in the future they'll never take effect,'" Johnson told reporters Friday in Green Bay. "I've got to confirm those comments, but I think that really puts this motion to proceed in jeopardy."

Ben Voelkel, a spokesman for Johnson, said he had nothing to add late Sunday when asked if Johnson had gotten any of his concerns addressed.

Johnson has been a thorn in McConnell's side for weeks since announcing his opposition to the GOP's health care bill in June. The move, which Johnson made in concert with three other conservative senators, effectively blocked the bill from coming up for a vote.

But, after GOP-backed changes to the bill, Johnson said last week that he would vote to bring the bill up for debate.

Under the changes, the GOP would allow insurers to offer bare-bones policies, keep some Obamacare taxes on wealthy Americans and put $45 billion into the fight against heroin addiction.

McConnell cannot afford to lose Johnson's vote. He needs 50 of the 52 Senate Republicans to pass the health care bill, and Sens. Susan Collins and Rand Paul have already defected.

"There are about eight to 10 Republican senators who have serious concerns about this bill," Collins said on CNN's State of the Union on Sunday. "So, at the end of the day, I don’t know whether it will pass."

Collins, a moderate, is concerned about the effects of proposed caps on Medicaid spending. The caps would effectively throw 15 million people off Medicaid, as the Congressional Budget Office estimated of the original bill draft.

Susan Collins and Rand Paul

Paul, a conservative, said Sunday that the current draft still keeps too much of the Affordable Care Act -- known as Obamacare -- in place. That has been one of Johnson's main concerns, too.

"It kind of annoys me that Republicans are going back on their word to repeal Obamacare," Paul said on Fox News Sunday.

Gov. Scott Walker said he met privately over the weekend with Vice President Mike Pence, who continues to push the bill. Walker has not said whether he supports the current draft.

Vice President Mike Pence

"President Donald Trump is going to lead this Congress to rescue the American people from the collapsing policies of Obamacare," Pence said at the annual National Governors Association meeting this weekend.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.