Opinion: Health care debate may continue into the fall

FILE - In this May 23, 2017, file photo, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., right, accompanied by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Boris Epshteyn formerly served as a Senior Advisor to the Trump Campaign and served in the White House as Special Assistant to The President and Assistant Communications Director for Surrogate Operations.

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) - As Congress returns from its Fourth of July recess, all eyes are back on health care reform.

The key question is whether Senate Republicans can rally behind a version of their health care bill.

In late June, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., delayed a vote in the Senate, as it appeared there weren’t the necessary 50 votes to pass their bill.

Where are we now?

Discussions among Senate Republicans have been ongoing but the current version of the bill still appears to be short of the needed support.

According to reports, Senate Republicans asked the Congressional Budget Office to score a revised version of their health care plan – including a new proposal from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. The Cruz proposal would allow insurers to sell plans that don’t meet the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) standards – potentially including not covering pre-existing conditions – as long as they sell at least one plan that qualifies under the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

As they await the new scores, the debate will continue. Leader McConnell also has to consider what other changes he needs to make in order to lock up at least 50 of the 52 Senate Republican votes. There is timing pressure as well. Congress takes off for its month-long August break in just about two weeks. Members could choose to stay in D.C. and continue working on health care reform, but chances of that happening are murky.

This past week, members were back home in their states and many of them got an earful from their constituents.

At least for one Senate Republican, it only reinforced her position against the bill as currently written.

"What I've been hearing the entire recess is people telling me to be strong, that they have a lot of concerns about the health care bill in the Senate," Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Tuesday during a Fourth of July event in Eastport, Maine.

"I'm still in the no unless the bill is dramatically changed," Collins added.

The bottom line is that there is a lot of pressure on Senate Republicans to come together on a health care bill. I expect that sooner or later that will occur, but Senate deliberations may drag into early fall.

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