Spotlight: Trump healthcare plan could pass Senate, but path "very narrow"

Source: Xinhua| 2017-06-26 00:55:18|Editor: ying
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By Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, June 25 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Donald Trump's healthcare reform could pass the Senate, but it will be close, and the Republican lawmakers cannot afford to lose many votes if the party wants to pass this controversial bill, experts said.

The bill is a bid to repeal and replace the previous administration's highly controversial healthcare revamp, known as Obamacare.

Republicans have blasted Obamacare over the past eight years for various reasons, such as driving up the cost of healthcare and leaving consumers with fewer choices. Under Obamacare, those who do not purchase healthcare are levied a tax and many Americans have to pay high deductibles.

In contrast, Democrats argue that Obamacare has helped some 20 million Americans while citing other benefits they believe have occurred, such as better preventive care.

Now Trump's healthcare plan is also under fire, and critics say it has been written in very partisan, non-transparent way - just as Democrats were blasted for doing when they wrote Obamacare. Critics also say Trump's plan will cut benefits for lower income people. And with the mid-term elections coming up in 2018, Republicans in less affluent districts do not want to risk losing their seats by passing a healthcare plan that could harm their constituents.

On Friday, Trump made calls to others in his party in a bid to ramp up support for his overhaul of the healthcare system, and admitted that the law is on a "very narrow path" to passing.

Indeed, five GOP lawmakers have said they will not support the legislation, but the administration said Trump has contacted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and has been on the phone with others in his party this week in a bid to drum up support.

The entire Democratic Party is expected to stand against the bill, which means the Republicans can only lose support of two lawmakers in the Senate.

"The Senate has a shot at passing the healthcare reform, but it will come down to a handful of moderate and very conservative members," Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua.

"There are half a dozen Republican Senators who are undecided and they will determine the fate of the bill. Probably all Democrats will oppose the bill so Republicans will need to muster 50 votes on their own," West said.

Democrats don't like the secretive process through which the bill has been drafted. Republicans are cutting taxes for the rich through the healthcare bill and removing healthcare coverage for millions of people, West said.

Dan Mahaffee, senior vice president and director of policy at the Center for the Study of Congress and the Presidency, told Xinhua that the Republican Party is going to have to very carefully thread the needle between the concerns of moderate Republican senators and those who are very conservative on both healthcare policy and spending.

"Even if they are able to thread this needle in the Senate, there is still the issue of whether the House can go along with what comes from the Senate to send it to President Trump's desk - none of these are a foregone conclusion," Mahaffee said.

As much as there is talk of civility and a return to things like regular order in Congress, there is too much of a concern among the Republican leadership and Trump Administration that Congress could enter recess without a major legislative accomplishment, he said.

Because of this, this has been an accelerated and secretive process, and the Democrats can cry foul about that, he said.

"That said, if the circumstances were reversed and Democrats controlled the House, Senate, and White House, I imagine they would be doing the same. It's now the nature of our politics," Mahaffee said.

Given that health care is about one-sixth of the U.S. economy, one would hope that there would be more deliberation on this topic, he noted.

The Republicans have the opportunity to perhaps focus on infrastructure or tax reform out of the gate, and address the replacement of Obamacare over 2018, or even have a replacement plan in place following action on the economy, the expert said.

However, they were hemmed in by their campaign promises to repeal Obamacare, and the public is increasingly concerned about what the replacement will look like. While the Republicans have swept these special elections, they still have to be concerned about what the public will think of this plan in 2018, Mahaffee said.