House speaker says will send health bill to Senate in weeks

  • In US
  • 2017-05-19 16:42:53Z
  • By By Susan Heavey and Susan Cornwell
U.S. Speaker of the House Ryan speaks to the press about Russia investigations on Capitol Hill in Washington
U.S. Speaker of the House Ryan speaks to the press about Russia investigations on Capitol Hill in Washington

By Susan Heavey and Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives will send its healthcare overhaul plan passed earlier this month to the Senate in a couple of weeks after it receives a final analysis by congressional reviewers, House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Friday.

Ryan said in a radio interview that the delay was "out of an abundance of caution" until the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) releases its findings on the legislation's costs and its impact on health insurance coverage.

The CBO's analysis, or "score," is expected late Wednesday, taking into account final changes to the bill before it passed the Republican-led House earlier this month.

"We are just basically being overly cautious, but there's really kind of a non-issue here," Ryan told the syndicated Hugh Hewitt radio show. "We're moving it over to the Senate probably in a couple of weeks."

Republicans are eager to make good on their campaign promise to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, Democratic former President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, also known as Obamacare.

Their plan narrowly passed the House on May 4 despite clashes within the Republican Party between hard-line and more moderate members. Asked if the CBO score could force another vote in the House, Ryan said no.

It still faces a potentially steep climb in the Senate, where Republicans hold a narrower majority. Senate Republican leaders have formed a working group, but it is unclear how much of the House bill they will accept. Some senators have vowed to start from scratch.

Lawmakers in both chambers must also grapple with potential voter backlash ahead of the 2018 congressional election.

Public opinion polls have also shown slipping support for Republican efforts. A Politico/Morning Consult poll this month found 44 percent of nearly 2,000 people surveyed disapproved of the House bill compared with 38 percent who approved of it.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi's spokesman, Drew Hammill, said the bill was becoming a liability for Republicans and "has no chance of success in the Senate, and now may even have to come back to the House to be amended."

Before the latest changes, the CBO had said the bill would leave 24 million more Americans uninsured by 2026 and slice about $150 billion off the budget deficit.

The House bill allows states to decide whether insurers can charge more to people with pre-existing conditions, roll back Obamacare's Medicaid expansion and repeal the penalty for not purchasing insurance.

Both the House and the Senate must pass a final piece of legislation before Trump could sign it into law.

Asked if the Senate could do that before lawmakers take a month-long recess in August, Ryan said: "That's a doable timeline."

(Editing by Jonathan Oatis)


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