House Republican leaders plunged into damage control mode Monday after a brutal budgetary assessment of their Obamacare replacement threatened to upend Senate GOP support and armed their critics on the left.
Speaker Paul Ryan’s team quickly pinpointed rosier elements of the report by the Congressional Budget Office, from cost savings to lower premiums. But the bottom line — that the number of uninsured Americans would climb by 24 million within a decade — threatened to upend the GOP leadership’s fragile efforts to unite congressional Republicans around the plan.
“Can’t sugarcoat it. Doesn’t look good,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.). “The CBO score was, shall we say, an eye-popper.”
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas sought to distance the Senate from the House bill, saying “we expect to do better” than the results that CBO showed.
“The House is going to continue to work on the bill to try and build support for it. But until they do, there’s not much for the Senate to do,” Cornyn said. Asked about conservative predictions this bill can’t pass the Senate, he said: “It’s premature to talk about that.”
That’s to say nothing of centrists spooked by the CBO results. Though conservatives have been the most vocally resistant to the plan so far, the new figures underscore the danger that moderate Republicans who hail from states that embraced Obamacare’s massive Medicaid expansion face if they support the bill. This contingent of House Republicans has been mostly muted about the bill so far and has been viewed by leadership allies as likely to fall in line.
The CBO score is a new obstacle for Republicans hoping to coalesce around a health care vision.