(Bloomberg) — The Congressional Budget Office won’t release a score on the revised Republican Better Care Reconciliation Act bill on Monday, as many had expected, as consideration of the controversial measure is delayed by a medical scare for one of its potential Senate backers.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said late Saturday that he’s postponing plans to begin Senate debate in the next few days after Republican Sen. John McCain said he’ll be home in Arizona recovering from unexpected surgery.
“While John is recovering, the Senate will continue our work on legislative items and nominations, and will defer consideration of the Better Care Act,” McConnell said in a statement.
Even before the delay, McConnell was facing very difficult odds. A revised version of the bill he released earlier this week quickly drew two firm no votes — Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan Collins of Maine — leaving the Kentucky Republican with no margin of error. He can’t lose a single additional Republican and still get the 50 votes he needs.
The CBO had been expected to issue its estimate of the new plan’s impact on health coverage and the federal budget deficit as early as Monday. Republicans are hoping the report will look better than an earlier CBO estimate, which said the Republican plan would cause 22 million Americans to lose insurance by 2026.
‘To the Rescue’
“We have no choice [but] to try to come to the rescue of the millions of people who are being failed as a result of the problems with Obamacare, and yes, unfortunately it’s become a partisan issue,” Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican leader, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “If we’re not successful now I assume we’ll keep trying, but at some point, if Democrats won’t participate in the process, then we’re going to have to come up with a different plan.”
The delay will give the CBO more time to score McConnell’s latest bill, although it’s not clear it will be enough to allow them to fully examine a new amendment from Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas that would allow insurers to offer stripped-down plans that exclude people with pre-existing conditions, charge women more, and offer far skimpier benefits.
While the change complicates McConnell’s plans, it also buys him time to shore up more support among a number of Republican holdouts, including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Dean Heller of Nevada and Rob Portman of Ohio.
McCain’s office announced Saturday evening that after a routine physical, the 80-year-old underwent surgery Friday to remove a blood clot from above his left eye at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix.
“On the advice of his doctors, Senator McCain will be recovering in Arizona next week,” according to a statement from his office, which said he’s at his home.
McConnell on July 13 revised a proposal that would replace Obamacare with an alternative that includes deep cuts to Medicaid, shores up the individual insurance market and repeals the Affordable Care Act’s mandates that individuals have health coverage and that most employers provide it.
The new bill would add $70 billion more for state stability and innovation funds, leave intact Obamacare tax increases on the wealthy, and put $45 billion toward addressing the opioid epidemic.
McCain has said he’s concerned about the impact of proposed Medicaid cuts on his home state, and said on July 13 he couldn’t say whether he would support McConnell’s new bill. He said he was working with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, on a series of Medicaid-related amendments to the bill.
“There are about eight to 10 Republican senators who have serious concerns about this bill,” Collins said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And so at the end of the day, I don’t know whether it will pass.”
--- Read Trustees: Medicare About 22% Short on ThinkAdvisor.