Tester pans new health care measure; Senate Republicans remain divided

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to the media about delaying a vote on Republican plans to repeal and replace Obamacare on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Working to salvage President Donald Trump’s pledge to dismantle Obamacare, Senate Republicans on Thursday unveiled new legislation that would let insurers sell cheap healthcare policies while retaining taxes on the wealthy.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, expressed dissatisfaction with the revised legislation. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, had not yet announced his position on the new measure, though he posted the bill’s language to his website.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released the reworkd health care bill in an effort to unite a divided Republican party and make good on the GOP’s seven-year mission to gut former President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement.

McConnell was walking a tightrope with Democrats united against the bill, including Tester. The state’s senior senator said it would allow insurers to deny coverage to Montanans.

“This plan rips away coverage from thousands of Montanans, allows insurers to deny Montanans coverage if they have pre-existing conditions like high blood pressure, and imposes an age tax on folks in their 50s and 60s,” Tester said. “Congress needs to work together to address rising premiums and deductibles, and when they are ready to work in a bipartisan manner, I’ll be waiting at the table.”

McConnell cannot afford to lose more than two Republican senators to win passage, according to Reuters. Two moderate Republicans, including Susan Collins and conservative Rand Paul, said they would oppose bringing the revised bill up for debate.

Others also expressed reservations while Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy announced an alternative plan.

McConnell said earlier this week he would keep the Senate in session the first two weeks of August as the GOP faces a daunting to-do list that includes repealing Obamacare and raising the debt limit.

Daines supported the move, saying he urged the stay.

“We only had 31 scheduled days in session until the end of the Fiscal Year with no bill to fund the government,” Daines said. “If you were failing school, you wouldn’t take a summer vacation – you would be going to summer school. We have a long list to accomplish and I’m glad that at my urging, the U.S. Senate is staying in session to work on behalf of the American people.”