WASHINGTON (Reuters)—Republican leaders were in a fierce push on Tuesday to shore up support for a healthcare bill in the U.S. Senate after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said 22 million Americans would lose insurance over the next decade under the measure.
Vice President Mike Pence is expected to travel to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to join Senate Republicans for a policy lunch before hosting a key conservative senator for dinner.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will continue meeting on-the-fence senators who face questions from their governors and state Medicaid officials about potential cuts to the government insurance program for the poor and disabled, lawmakers say.
The CBO analysis on Monday prompted Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME.), a key moderate vote, to say she could not support moving forward on the bill as it was written.
At least four conservative Republican senators—Ted Cruz (R-Tx.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Mike Lee (R-Ut.)–said their opposition remained unchanged after the CBO analysis.
Pence will host Lee and other conservative Republican senators at a dinner later on Tuesday, Politico reports, with James Lankford (R-Okla.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) also invited.
Further, Collins, Paul and Johnson, along with Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), have all said they will oppose a procedural motion to allow McConnell to move forward and bring the bill up for a vote.
Heller, a moderate Republican up for re-election next year in Nevada, is already facing political fallout after a group started by former campaign aides to President Donald Trump and Pence promised to run ads against him.
The overlapping concerns and competing interests of the lawmakers highlight the balancing act facing McConnell as he tries to unify his party and deliver a legislative win to the president.
Trump and most Republicans in Congress were elected on campaign pledges to repeal and replace Obamacare, Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature 2010 law that extended insurance coverage to some 20 million Americans. The pressure is on for them to deliver, now that they control the White House, House of Representatives and Senate.
Sen. Angus King (I-ME), an independent, lamented the lack of presidential leadership to guide the legislation that he said runs counter to Trump’s promises to insure everyone, cut costs and protect those with pre-existing conditions.
“He sort of stood on the sidelines and let these bills develop. He celebrated the House bill then said it was mean. I don’t think he’s getting into the details about what these bills actually do,” King told MSNBC.