Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) announced Friday that he is opposed to the Obamacare repeal legislation unveiled by Senate GOP leadership this week in its current form and that he won’t vote to advance if it is brought up for a procedural vote early next week.
“In this form, I will not support it,” Heller said. Heller is up for reelection in 2018 and is from a Medicaid expansion state. He cited the rollback of expansion has his reason not to support it.
“This bill…is simply not the answer,” Heller said.
Heller faces perhaps the toughest reelection race next year of all the GOP senators who will be on the ballot, so it’s not entirely surprising he came out against the bill, given how deeply unpopular the House version of the repeal legislation has shown to be. However, it was notable that Heller would condemn the Senate proposal in such strong terms and not just for its Medicaid cuts.
“There isn’t anything in this bill that would lower premiums,” Heller said.
Heller made his announcement at a press conference where he was joined by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R), who previously has been critical of the GOP’s efforts to eliminate the expansion as part of their Affordable Care Act repeal.
“Make no mistake, the ACA does need fixing. But the bill in front of us today I don’t think makes those fixes,” Heller said.
He was preceded by introduction by Sandoval, who praised the expansion for dramatically lowering the uninsured rate in Nevada. Heller, in his remarks, stressed that he would be opposed to efforts to roll back the expanded program, unless there was an influx of funding elsewhere in Medicaid to make up for the shortfall.
“Let me assure you, leadership knows well how I feel,” Heller said, while also bashing the long-term cuts in the Senate bill to the traditional Medicaid program.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) can lose just two votes and still pass the legislation, the Better Care Reconciliation. Already, four conservative senators have said they’re not at the moment supporting the current form of the bill, but it seems likely that at least some of them can won be back with another round of negotiations.
Heller, meanwhile, was skeptical Friday that Senate leadership was going to be able to provide the concessions he would need to support the bill.
“It’s going to be very difficult to get me to a yes,” he said. He predicted that his call for a preservation of Medicaid expansion would lose the support of the more conservative senators from non-expansion states in the GOP Senate conference.
He did not hold back his criticism of the Senate bill, and his concerns on the Medicaid cuts ranged from their impact on special needs schools to their effect on substance abuse programs.
Beyond the Medicaid cuts, Heller also said he was also concerned with the Senate bill’s rollback, via waivers, of Obamacare’s Essential Health Benefits. He questioned the way that the Affordable Care Act dealt with pre-existing condition, but said the Senate bill did not do any better.