Senate GOP Secures Votes to Open Debate on Health Care - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Senate GOP Secures Votes to Open Debate on Health Care

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Courtesy of AP Courtesy of AP

President Donald Trump is praising the Senate for moving forward on health care repeal.

He says a vote Tuesday to take up the Republican health care bill "was a big step."

Trump also thanked Arizona Sen. John McCain, who returned to Washington his brain cancer diagnosis, to cast a vote.

Trump adds that he wants "to congratulate the American people" because better health care is on the way.

Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) released the following statement after the vote: 

“This vote today is a disaster for Nevada. It will hurt hundreds of thousands of Nevadans.

Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) voted yes on the procedural vote.

He released this statement before the voted occurred on Tuesday:

"Obamacare isn’t the answer, but doing nothing to try to solve the problems it has created isn’t the answer either. That is why I will vote to move forward and give us a chance to address the unworkable aspects of the law that have left many Nevadans - particularly those living in rural areas - with dwindling or no choices. Whether it’s my ideas to protect Nevadans who depend on Medicaid or the Graham-Cassidy proposal that empowers states and repeals the individual and employer mandates, there are commonsense solutions that could improve our health care system and today’s vote gives us the opportunity to fight for them. If the final product isn’t improved for the state of Nevada, then I will not vote for it; if it is improved, I will support it."

Protesters temporarily disrupted the Senate proceedings on the health care bill before the vote.

Shouting "Kill the bill" and "shame," the demonstrators stood in the visitors' gallery and chanted. They were led out of the chamber by police but could still be heard.

Democrats uniformly oppose the effort to tear down Obama's signature legislative achievement. 

Trump kept up the pressure on GOP lawmakers, tweeting that "After 7 years of talking, we will soon see whether or not Republicans are willing to step up to the plate!" He added: "ObamaCare is torturing the American People. The Democrats have fooled the people long enough. Repeal or Repeal & Replace! I have pen in hand." 

At least a dozen GOP senators have openly said they oppose or criticized McConnell's legislation, which he's revised as he's hunted Republican support. While it had long seemed headed toward defeat, Republicans Monday began showing glimmers of optimism.

"My mandate from the people of Kentucky is to vote yes, and I certainly intend to do so," McConnell said Monday in what seemed an implicit reminder to his Republican colleagues that they've done the same.

"Over and over again, they said, 'Repeal and replace, repeal and replace.' But they can now keep their promise," Trump said in White House remarks Monday.

Obama's law was enacted in 2010 over unanimous Republican opposition. Since then, its expansion of Medicaid and creation of federal insurance marketplaces has produced 20 million fewer uninsured people. It's also provided protections that require insurers to provide robust coverage to all, cap consumers' annual and lifetime expenditures and ensure that people with serious medical conditions pay the same premiums as the healthy.

The law has been unpopular with GOP voters and the party has launched numerous attempts to dismantle the statute. All until this year were mere aspirations because Obama vetoed every major one that reached him.

Ever since 2010, Republicans have been largely united on scuttling the statute but divided over how to replace it.

Those divides sharpened with Trump willing to sign legislation and estimates by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that several GOP bills would cause more than 20 million people to become uninsured by 2026. Polls showing growing popularity for Obama's law and abysmal approval ratings for the GOP effort haven't helped.

The House approved its version of the bill in May after several setbacks. It's similar to the Senate measure McConnell unveiled in June after writing it privately. But he's also revised it in his hunt for GOP votes.

McConnell's bill would abolish much of Obama's law, eliminating its tax penalties on people not buying policies, cutting Medicaid, eliminating its tax boosts on medical companies and providing less generous health care subsidies for consumers.

Moderate Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has remained opposed to beginning debate on any option McConnell has revealed so far. Conservative Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said he would vote no unless leaders agreed to an early vote on simply repealing Obama's statute and giving Congress two years to replace it.

Conservatives were seeking language letting insurers offer bare-bones policies with low premiums, which would be illegal under Obama's law. Moderates from states whose low-income residents rely heavily on Medicaid were resisting the GOP bill's cuts in that program.

Nevada Congresswoman Jacky Rosen released this statement:
“Senator Heller had a chance today to stop the GOP’s toxic health care agenda, but instead he broke his word and cast the deciding vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act with no replacement plan,” said Rosen. “After telling Nevadans he would oppose this effort to take insurance away from thousands of his constituents, Senator Heller quietly folded and caved to political pressure from President Trump and Republican leadership. Senator Heller’s deciding vote is a slap in the face for Nevada families who are terrified of having their costs spike or their coverage disappear because of this reckless repeal effort. Make no mistake: this was a heartless and immoral vote to take health care away from tens of thousands of Nevadans and millions of Americans. Nevadans are going to reject this record of extreme partisanship and broken promises by repealing and replacing Senator Heller in 2018.”

Nevada Congressman Ruben J. Kihuen released the following statement:

“Today’s vote brings Republicans one step closer to severely crippling our healthcare system. If successful, their efforts would leave millions without health coverage, cut funds for Medicaid, and increase healthcare costs for hardworking families. Attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act should be alarming to each and every American. Our healthcare system is uniquely complex and requires a uniquely American solution. What we don’t need are misguided attempts to score political points that will only result in millions of Americans losing coverage and paying more for less care.” 

In response to Senator Heller’s deciding vote to advance his toxic health care agenda, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman David Bergstein released the following statement:
“Senator Heller has proven time and again Nevadans cannot trust him to stand up for their care and today he sealed his fate as another desperate, self-serving Washington politician too interested in helping himself to stand up for the people who elected him. His deciding vote today – to force Nevadans to pay more for less care, to drive up premiums by 20 percent, to impose an age tax on older Americans and to strip away coverage for pre-existing conditions – will be one of his last.”

Governor Brian Sandoval issued the following statement:

"My healthcare conversations have been focused on policy, not procedure. My policy position has not changed. I will continue to do all I can to protect the thousands of Nevadans whose lives are healthier and happier as a result of the expansion of Medicaid. My health care team which includes staff and cabinet experts, have and will continue to review proposals offered in the Senate and discuss the potential impacts on Nevada with Senator Heller and his staff." ?

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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