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Defeat of ‘skinny repeal’ elicits strong reaction from Pennsylvania senators

Wesley Venteicher
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U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (left) and Sen. Rob Portman ride a Senate subway to the U.S. Capitol before all-night voting July 27, 2017 in Washington, DC.

Pennsylvania’s senators each called for renewed efforts Friday to make health care more affordable following the late-night failure of a Republican effort to overhaul Obamacare.

The Senate voted struck down the bill in a 49-to-51 vote early Friday morning, concluding a series of votes against a string of similar proposals over the last couple of days.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, voted for the bill.

“I am disappointed with this setback on efforts to fix our broken health care system,” Toomey said in a statement. “For the hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians suffering from the higher costs and fewer choices caused by Obamacare’s collapse, Congress must not give up on repealing and replacing the failed health care law.”

Toomey was one of 13 senators who helped craft a bill known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act that the Senate rejected earlier this week. The bill would have repealed the mandates that individuals and businesses buy or provide insurance, repealed taxes in the federal health law, changed premium subsidy structures, boosted health savings accounts, scaled back Medicaid spending and given states more flexibility in how they regulate plan benefits, among other changes.

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, voted against it.

“The Senate Republican health care plan was a terrible bill for the middle class and that’s why it was rejected on a bipartisan basis,” Casey said in a statement. “It’s now time for Democrats and Republicans to work together on common sense solutions that will make our health care system more affordable and bring down costs for families. I commend Senators McCain, Collins and Murkowski for their courageous votes.”

Casey has suggested a Medicare-like public option to compete with individual health plans on the marketplace to try to lower premiums, and has vehemently fought any attempts to scale back Medicaid.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, cast the deciding vote against the bill. Earlier this week he called for a return to the regular process of legislating.

“Let the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee under Chairman (Tennessee Republican Lamar) Alexander and Ranking Member (Washington Democrat Patty) Murray hold hearings, try to report a bill out of committee with contributions from both sides,” McCain said in a speech. “Then bring it to the floor for amendment and debate, and see if we can pass something that will be imperfect, full of compromises, and not very pleasing to implacable partisans on either side, but that might provide workable solutions to problems Americans are struggling with today.”

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676, [email protected] or via Twitter @wesventeicher.

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