Senate Republicans coming out of closed door meetings Wednesday said that their bill to dismantle the Affordable Care Act will be unveiled at GOP Senate conference meeting Thursday morning at 9:30 a.m. They indicated that the legislation would also be available to the public Thursday morning, though it’s unclear exactly how it is being released.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the majority whip, also said a Congressional Budget Office score could come as soon as Friday, though other GOP lawmakers said it might not be ready until Monday.
“We’re working hard to get it as fast as we can,” Cornyn said, adding that “next week” is when leadership is hoping for a floor vote.
According to his office, he later clarified that, “It’s probably going to be Monday but we’re hopeful it would be as early as Friday.”
Heading into a GOP Senate lunch, some lawmakers said that big questions on the bill, such as whether it will include state waivers for Obamacare’s Essential Health Benefits, remained unanswered.
Other details about the direction Senate Republicans were heading became a little bit more clear.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said a provision from the House bill, the American Health Care Act, that prohibited the use of its individual insurance tax credits on plans that would cover abortion would have to be stripped due to Senate rules. Republicans are using a restrictive parliamentary process called reconciliation to avoid a Democratic filibuster.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), however, said GOP lawmakers were looking at ways to get around that.
“It would not be in the direct sense that it was proposed in the House, but I think there are ways to address the concerns of members including my own,” Tillis said.
As for the House bill’s measure to defund Planned Parenthood, which Collins opposes, she said she hinted that she would be comfortable with it if she had the opportunity to vote on an amendment to strip the measure.
“I would join with Sen. [Lisa] Murkowski (R-AK) in offering an amendment to strike the provision,” she said.
The Hill reported that the additional funding for opioid programs that GOP senators were considering as a way of blunting the bill’s Medicaid cuts was likely to be axed.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who has been leading the negotiations around Medicaid, was mum on on how quickly the Senate bill would phase out expansion funding.
Tillis suggested, however, that Republicans were aiming for an expansion phaseout model that would begin winding down funding for the enhanced Medicaid rates starting in 2020 for a three-year transition period.
Most Republicans said they were waiting until the text was released to say whether they would support the bill. Among them, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) seemed the most concerned about the direction the GOP Senate was heading.
“Everything I hear sounds like Obamacare-lite,” Paul said.
Update: This story has been updated to include a clarification from Sen. Cornyn’s office on the expected timing of the CBO score.