(Bloomberg) — At least three Republican senators said they would vote to block the Better Care Reconciliation Act bill, the current version of their party’s health care bill, from advancing, endangering Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan to change the Affordable Care Act.
Republican Susan Collins of Maine late Monday said she would vote against a key procedural step, joining Rand Paul of Kentucky and Dean Heller of Nevada.
A new estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, which found the BCRA bill would leave an additional 22 million Americans without health insurance in a decade, has moved McConnell further away from the 50 votes he needs to pass the measure.
“It’s a terrible bill,” Paul said. Collins, a moderate, said the CBO analysis showed the bill “doesn’t fix” the Affordable Care Act’s problems.
Republican leaders insisted they still hope to hold a final vote this week, and McConnell did get one piece of good news in the CBO estimate: an extra $200 billion in deficit savings compared to the House-passed bill. Some or all of that funding could be used to boost programs or subsidies to help win over some holdouts.
At least six Republican senators have said they’re not ready to support the current version of the health care bill, and McConnell can only afford to lose two and still pass the bill.
Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin warned GOP leaders that holding a vote this week “would be a mistake. If Leader McConnell says failure is not an option, don’t set yourself up for failure.” He added that he didn’t think he would get enough information on the bill to be able to support advancing the bill this week.
“The current draft doesn’t have the votes to pass,“ Ted Cruz of Texas said, “but I believe we can get to yes.”
The Trump administration quickly blasted the CBO report, saying the agency has a “history of inaccuracy.”
But senators were taking the CBO estimate more seriously.
“If you’re looking at this as a political vote, the CBO report didn’t help you,” said Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who said he won’t block the measure. “So I think it’s going to be harder to get to 50, not easier.”
Cruz blasted in particular the near-term cost increases that the CBO estimated. “At this point, we need to do significantly more to lower premiums,” he said.