Top Senate Republicans may try preserving a tax boost on high earners enacted by President Barack Obama in a bid to woo party moderates and rescue their sputtering push to repeal his health care overhaul.
The break from dogma by a party that has long reviled tax boosts — and most things achieved by Obama — underscores Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s feverish effort to yank one of his and President Donald Trump’s foremost priorities from the brink of defeat. The money would instead be used to bolster proposed health care subsidies for lower-income people.
The change, proposed by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., would give a more populist flavor to the bill. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that as the legislation now is written, it would boost out-of-pocket costs for many poor consumers and produce 22 million uninsured people while cutting around $700 billion in taxes over a decade — largely for richer people and the health care industry.
“You’re increasing the burden on lower-income citizens and obviously alleviating the burden on the wealthy. That is not an equation that works,” Corker said. He said he was “very confident” that leaders would address the issue in the updated bill.
Top Republicans also considered an amendment pushed by conservatives to let insurers offer plans with low premiums and scant benefits. To do so, a company would also have to sell a policy that abides by the consumer-friendly coverage requirements in Obama’s 2010 statute, which the GOP is struggling to repeal.
Both proposals were encountering internal Republican opposition, and it was uncertain either would survive. But the effort underscored how McConnell, R-Ky., needed to mollify both wings of his divided party to rescue his health care legislation, which he wrote secretly but has floundered.
McConnell postponed a vote on an initial version Tuesday because of opposition from conservatives and moderates alike. By this week’s end, he wants to nail down changes that would assure the bill’s passage after Congress’ weeklong July 4 recess. No more than two of the 52 GOP senators can oppose the measure for him to prevail, and there were no indications he’d achieved that margin as senators left town Thursday.
“We’re kind of at a stalemate right now, I’d say,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who with Ohio GOP Sen. Robert Portman and others wants to forestall reductions the measure would make in Medicaid. Discussions about…