Nevada senator Dean Heller has become the fifth Republican to come out in opposition to the current draft version of the Senate healthcare bill.
Heller, who faces re-election in 2018 in the Democratic-leaning state, said on Friday: “I cannot support a piece of legislation that takes away insurance from tens of millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Nevadans.”
A comparative moderate, Heller supports the expansion of Medicare that was included in the Affordable Care Act.
The Nevada senator joins four other Republicans in expressing opposition to the draft bill as it is currently written.
Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, oppose the current version of the bill for being too similar to Obamacare. However, these four conservatives expressed their willingness to support changes with Paul explicitly stating he was “open to negotiations”.
To pass the Senate, with unanimous Democratic opposition expected, Republicans can only afford two defectors. Several other Republicans, including moderate Susan Collins of Maine, are still undecided about the legislation.
The draft bill was unveiled on Thursday by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell as the upper chamber’s response to the American Health Care Act, the Obamacare repeal legislation passed by the House in May.
The Senate’s proposal would eliminate or reduce key benefits provided by the Affordable Care Act; lower taxes for the wealthy; strip funding from the women’s reproductive health provider Planned Parenthood; and dramatically cut and restructure the Medicaid public health insurance program for low-income and disabled Americans.
Much of the architecture of the House’s American Health Care Act has been left intact.
The draft bill is expected to be subject to negotiations over the coming days, and Senate majority whip John Cornyn told reporters on Thursday that McConnell could file the final bill “as late as Tuesday” and that “it would encompass additional conversations and ideas between now and then” as Republicans try to earn the necessary support within their caucus.
The Congressional Budget Office is expected to release its score of the bill early next week, estimating how many millions of Americans stand to lose their insurance. The score for the House bill projected that 23 million people would lose their insurance, whilst cutting the federal deficit by $119bn over a decade.
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