​​​​​​​Senate Republicans try to gather votes for health bill as talk turns to possibility of a bipartisan solution

U.S. Capitol with flag
Senate Republicans may be forced to work with Democrats if they can't secure enough votes for their bill. (Getty/Andrea Izzotti)

Senate Republicans are hunting for votes in an effort to pass their healthcare reform bill, but may have to find a bipartisan solution if the GOP cannot come to a consensus.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been meeting with other party members in an effort to strike a deal on the bill, with some requests requiring fundamental changes to the Better Care Reconciliation Act and others requiring some “trimming around the edges,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Lousiana, told the Associated Press.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, told the AP that Republicans are taking a careful approach to adjusting the bill.

“Once in Glacier National Park I saw two porcupines making love,” Roberts said. “I’m assuming they produced smaller porcupines. They produced something. It has to be done carefully. That’s what we’re doing now.”

McConnell could submit an updated version of the bill to the Congressional Budget Office as early as tomorrow. The Senate initially planned to vote on the bill this week, but delayed a vote until after the Fourth of July recess as several Republican senators indicated they did not support it. The CBO’s score, which estimated that the bill would increase the number of uninsured people by 22 million by 2026, did not help matters, either.

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If Republican senators can’t come together on this bill, they may be forced to work with Democrats to find a bipartisan solution, likely one that shores up the Affordable Care Act instead of repealing it, as the GOP has long promised to do.

Senators leery about the bill are not confident it will progress anytime soon, reported The New York Times. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, for instance, when asked about the likelihood of Republicans reaching an agreement this week, said it could ... and also that “pigs could fly.”

Senators from both sides of the aisle met last month to discuss healthcare issues, but a bipartisan effort is easier said than done. The GOP’s bill would likely have to die a public death first, ending years of promises to fully repeal the ACA, and would require buy-in from both McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin.

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said there is a consensus among Democrats that it’s too early to begin striking bipartisan deals. The Dems want to be fully confident that both the BCRA and the American Health Care Act are dead first, he said.

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Though the possibility of bipartisan discussions is growing, Senate GOP leaders are moving some money around in hopes of securing additional votes on the repeal bill, Politico reported. Republican leaders and the White House have agreed to add $45 billion in funding for the opioid crisis to the bill, and are nearing an agreement that would allow consumers with health savings accounts to use that money to pay for premiums, according to the article.

The changes could draw in more votes—moderate Republicans like the opioid funds, conservatives back HSA expansions—but there is still no guarantee of success.