WASHINGTON (Reuters)—U.S. Democrats on Sunday criticized the lack of women on a working group in the Republican-led Senate that will craft a plan to pass legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare.
As the Senate begins to wrestle with a Republican healthcare bill narrowly approved by the House of Representatives last week, senators questioned why the 13-member working group put together by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) does not include any of the chamber’s five Republican women.
“Women’s health is a big part of this and women are a majority of the population, and their health interests deserve to be contemplated in any reform,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) wrote on Twitter: “It matters to have women at the table—and it matters when they aren’t.”
Republicans pushed their healthcare restructuring through the House on a 217-213 vote, handing President Donald Trump his first major legislative success.
But the bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where Republicans have a narrow majority and several members have suggested they will develop their own plans. Democrats are united in opposition to the House bill.
Trump pledged on Sunday that the effort to gut former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law would be successful.
“Republican Senators will not let the American People down!” he wrote on Twitter. “ObamaCare premiums and deductibles are way up-it was a lie, and it is dead!”
The Senate’s healthcare working group includes the Republican leadership, several committee chairmen and a combination of conservatives, such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.), and more moderate Republicans from politically important swing states, such as Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Pat Toomey (R-Penn.).
Critics said the group’s lack of diversity would eliminate crucial viewpoints.
“The GOP is crafting policy on an issue that directly impacts women without including a single woman in the process. It’s wrong,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) wrote on Twitter on Saturday.
Don Stewart, a senior aide to McConnell, said critics were getting “hung up on process” while ignoring the problems of Obamacare, such as higher costs and limited choices.
“So you can get caught up in process, or you can focus on the actual reality,” Stewart said in an email on Sunday.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME.), who has been working on her own healthcare plan, said she was reaching out to moderate Democrats to try to find common ground. She did not criticize the working group’s all-male make-up but said she wanted to see a broader effort to replace Obama’s 2010 healthcare law.