Top Republicans have agreed to add $45 billion for battling opioids abuse to their struggling health care bill, but the measure’s fate remained uncertain Thursday as leaders confront an expanding chorus of GOP detractors.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is hoping the added money will help win over moderate GOP senators like Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia. Their states are among many battered by rising death tolls from illegal drug use and they’ve been pushing for the funds.
Those same senators are also insisting on easing cuts the GOP legislation would impose on Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income and disabled people that their states also rely upon. There’s no indication an agreement has been reached to pull back on those reductions.
That leaves McConnell still short of the votes he needs to push legislation through the Senate repealing much of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. The measure would fail if three of the chamber’s 52 Republicans vote no, since all Democrats are opposed.
McConnell wants agreement on revisions by Friday so the Senate can approve it shortly after returning in mid-July from an Independence Day recess. Several senators have scoffed at that timetable, with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., saying, “Pigs could fly.”
The added opioids funds, which would be provided over a decade, were described by people who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private negotiations.
On Wednesday — a day after McConnell unexpectedly abandoned plans to whisk the measure through his chamber this week — fresh GOP critics popped forward. Some senators emerged from a party lunch saying potential amendments were beyond cosmetic, with changes to Medicaid and Obama’s consumer-friendly insurance coverage requirements among the items in play.
“There’s a whole raft of things that people are talking about, and some of it’s trimming around the edges and some…