The razor-thin survival of the GOP health care bill became dire Monday night when two Republican senators declared they would not support the legislation. Earlier in the day a bipartisan group of Vermont leaders had gathered at the Statehouse to decry the measure and what they call potential negative impacts on the state.
Vermont’s Democratic and Independent Congressional delegation, Republican governor and bipartisan legislative leaders met in Montpelier to impart what they see as the negative impact the GOP health care proposal could have on the state. The bipartisan group was united in their criticism of the GOP plan which at the time was wavering on the edge of passage.
Republican Governor Phil Scott said while the bipartisan group has different ideas for health care reform, they want to highlight the potential impacts of the GOP proposal. “Reforms to the current systems are very much needed. I’ve advocated that Congress ensure changes that do not undermine coverage or reduce funding that have supported Medicaid expansion. I’ve also asked for states to have as much flexibility as possible and more of a voice in this discussion. The proposed reductions in Medicaid would leave our state with a budget deficit we could not absorb without cutting health care services for the people who deserve them most or significantly raise taxes on already over-taxed Vermonters. The consequences for Vermonters would be severe.”
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy called health care a human, not a party issue. “The bill that was released last week it’s a massive tax cut package for corporate America that is paid for on the backs of pregnant women, children, struggling working families, families, parents or grandparents seeking nursing care, those with disabilities who rely on Medicaid for their basic needs. It’s a massive entitlement bill that supporters are trying to sell as a fix to the Affordable Care Act. But it would fix nothing and I think it’s immoral.”
Independent Senator Bernie Sanders stepped up and repeated his stance that the health care bill is the most dangerous and destructive piece of legislation to be crafted in the modern Congress. “Nobody thinks that the Affordable Care Act is perfect. It is far from perfect. Our job is to improve the Affordable Care Act and we have some ideas as to how we can do that. Drive down deductibles, drive down premiums, drive down co-payments. That is our job: improve it. Not destroy it!”
Vermont Senate Minority Leader Republican Dustin Degree called himself a fiscal conservative opposed to the federal health care bill. “I like many of my colleagues across the aisle have been frustrated by how much faster health care costs, public and private, have grown than the economy or wages in the last decade. However I do not think that the cuts envisioned in the federal health care bill will stop people from getting sick and requiring services. Nor do I think it will help Vermonters afford those expenses they’ve incurred. I oppose the federal health care bill because I do not think it takes constructive steps to making health care more affordable here in Vermont.”
Democratic Congressman Peter Welch predicted if the Affordable Care Act is repealed or replaced, the states will bear the subsequent burden. “We’re in an existential fight about keeping what we have and if we lose it the threat to Vermont, the threat to every state, the threat to every community hospital is catastrophic. It’s that’s serious. If this health care bill gets repealed this legislature is going to be facing either raising taxes on Vermonters or cutting benefits for Vermonters and both of those are not choices that the federal government should inflict on this state.”
Monday night, two GOP senators — Utah's Mike Lee and Jerry Moran of Kansas — announced they would vote against the measure, two more than the Republican majority can spare in the face of unanimous Democratic opposition.
Tuesday morning President Donald Trump tweeted his desire for a 51-vote majority in the Senate instead of the current 60 votes.