GOP senators brace for questions during recess, tough task upon return

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GOP senators are keen to emphasize that they are working on a healthcare bill that is separate from the version passed by the House.

As Republican senators prepare to field questions about the House’s healthcare bill, they also face the sobering challenge of crafting a version that appeases their party’s divergent factions.

Congress began a 10-day recess on Friday, and members returning to their home districts are likely to hear about the Congressional Budget Office’s recent score of the final version of the American Health Care Act passed by the House. Perhaps anticipating that, few GOP lawmakers are planning to hold town halls this week, The Hill notes.

For their part, House Democrats are planning to use the CBO score to whip up opposition to Republicans’ plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the article adds. They received a recess packet encouraging them to emphasize the “terrible consequences” of their GOP colleagues’ bill.

The CBO found that the bill would increase the number of uninsured individuals by 23 million by 2026, and reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion—less than a previous version of the legislation but still hailed by some GOP leaders as a positive. They also touted the score’s finding that premiums would eventually decrease on average in the individual market, yet this would vary widely depending on where consumers live and their age and health status.

Still, GOP senators are keen to emphasize that they are working on a bill that is separate from the version passed by the House, Roll Call reports.

“Obviously the CBO score is one data point and it’s instructive, but it’s not our bill,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told the publication.

However the recess transpires, Republicans in the Senate will nonetheless will face a tough reality when they return. Since no Democrats support the effort to repeal the ACA, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can afford to lose just three Republican votes, as the Associated Press points out.

But to reach that level of consensus, McConnell will have to craft a plan that addresses a slew of competing concerns from GOP senators. They include Lisa Murkowski, who along with Susan Collins opposes blocking federal funds to Planned Parenthood.

Some conservatives, meanwhile, want to further curb Medicaid spending and erase even more of the ACA’s insurance coverage requirements—both of which will likely cause some moderate to balk.