Rob Portman criticizes health care deadline: ‘We need to get it right’

Calling it an “arbitrary deadline,” Sen. Rob Portman objected to plans by Senate Republican leaders to gain approval for a health-care bill before the July 4 holidays, saying instead “we need to get it right.”

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Portman tersely acknowledged he has not even seen the bill drafted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., saying he doubted “you will find anyone who knows what is in it. If they have, I’d like to see it.”

RELATED: Gov. Kasich slams House GOP over health-care bill

Although Portman, R-Ohio, has backed an overhaul of the 2010 health law known as Obamacare, he fears “if we try to squeeze it in a short period of time we won’t get it right and we have to get it right.”

“I have never said we should have an arbitrary deadline,” Portman said.

Portman declined to directly criticize McConnell by name, but he made clear he prefers Senate hearings on any proposed health-care bill. McConnell said Tuesday he wants to make the bill public by Thursday and push for a final floor vote next week.

But with Senate Republicans holding just 52 seats, the bill will collapse if McConnell loses the votes of three Republicans. And Portman said he was “not going to make any decisions” on the bill “until I see” details.

Senate Republican frustration with the secrecy of the GOP bill erupted in full view on Capitol Hill Tuesday as Democrats headed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., taunted Republicans by saying “they want to bring the bill to the floor, rush it in the dark of night, for a simple reason – they are ashamed of their bill.”

The House last month approved its own version, but it has run into intense opposition from many of the Senate Republicans while President Donald Trump called the House measure “mean.”

RELATED: U.S. Rep. Mike Turner votes against health care bill

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Tuesday Trump “clearly wants a bill that has heart in it. He believes that healthcare is something that is near and dear to so many families and individuals.”

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office concluded last month that the House bill would reduce the number of people without insurance or government coverage by 23 million people by 2026.

Obamacare had extended coverage to millions of Americans through federally subsidized individual insurance plans and expanded eligibility to Medicaid, the joint federal and state program which provides health care to low-income people.

Portman had sharply objected to the House bill for eliminating federal dollars in 2020 to pay for Medicaid expansion. Gov. John Kasich used the expanded Medicaid program to provide coverage to nearly 700,000 low-income people in the state.

Instead, Portman has pushed for a more gradual phase out of the expanded Medicaid program by providing seven additional years of federal money to help Ohio and other states afford the program through at least 2027. But after that year, many people who would have qualified for expanded Medicaid would be without coverage.

About the Author