Sanders leads debate opposition on Obamacare repeal

WASHINGTON — Over the course of two days of debate and votes on a variety of proposals, the Senate has so far failed to repeal Obamacare.

The discussion over health care proposals began Tuesday afternoon, when Senate Republicans secured a narrow victory on a procedural vote that allowed 20 hours of debate to begin.

The Senate is moving forward with a bill that passed the House earlier this year. However, the House-passed proposal is not popular in the Senate, and Republican leadership is seeking to use the bill as a vehicle for their own proposals.

Vermont’s two senators and other members of the Democratic caucus have remained staunch in their opposition to every proposal brought forward so far.

Seven Republicans joined Democrats to defeat the latest plan on Wednesday.

The Congressional Budget Office says the repeal proposals could knock 15 million to 20 million off insurance rolls. The New York Times has reported that premiums could go up 20 percent as a result of the reforms proposed by President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans.

Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., appears on MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes.”

In a sarcastic question-and-answer exchange on the Senate floor, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., asked Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden about the Republican-led repeal proposals.

“Would my friend from Oregon tell me, how many hearings have been held on the finance committee to discuss the economic implications of this legislation?” Sanders asked. “Were there five, 10? How many hearings on this enormously complicated and important issue?”

“My colleague is being logical and heaven forbid that that should be introduced into this, because we would automatically assume that on a matter like this — we are talking about a sixth of the American economy — the Senate Finance Committee would have hearings,” Wyden responded. “There have been no hearings.”

The senators went back and forth on GOP proposals that go well beyond repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Republicans have tacked on significant reductions in Medicaid spending and an increase tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.

In a series of posts on Twitter, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., vowed to prevent cuts to Medicaid.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are struggling to secure support in the 52-member caucus to amend the House bill.

Late Tuesday night, the chamber voted down an amendment that featured a modified version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act. Nine Republicans broke ranks to oppose the proposal, in a 43 to 57 vote. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was the architect of the measure.

When the Senate convened Wednesday morning, there were still 17 hours of debate to go. In the mid-afternoon senators voted down an amendment based on a 2015 bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act that would have left a two-year window for implementation.

The Senate also defeated a Democratic motion to send the bill to committee.

As debate stretched into the evening, expected to resume Thursday, many involved in health care in Vermont were keeping abreast of the developments.

Senate Democrats rally on the Capitol steps Tuesday. Photo by Elizabeth Hewitt/VTDigger

Mary Kate Mohlman, the director of health care reform for the Scott administration, said she is keeping an eye on how the proposals could impact the flexibility Vermont has with federal Medicaid dollars. Vermont has what is called a “global commitment” waiver that allows the state to use the money for a variety of programs beyond health care for low-income residents.

“We would like to see slow down, let’s return to a bipartisan, open approach,” Mohlman said, referring to a letter Gov. Phil Scott penned with a bipartisan group of other governors last week.

Susan Barrett, executive director of the Green Mountain Care Board, said the regulatory agency was tracking the machinations in Washington this week, but carrying on with business as usual.

“When we know what comes out of the federal government, we’re going to have to react,” she said. “But up until then, like everybody else, we’re in limbo.”

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  • Steve Baker

    Of course Bernie Pat and other Vermont Pols are against any cuts or reform to this windfall welfare program.
    Why are such a disproportionate number of Vermonters relying on Medicaid?
    Why can’t Vermont generate an economy of goods and services that supports it’s own?
    What is wrong with a “Work Requirement” for adults with no dependents? …. Unless it’s your goal to keep as many dependent as possible.

    Leahy tweets with pride instead of the embarrassment of failure….” #Vermont relies on #Medicaid.Without it kids, families & the elderly suffer. #killthebill. ”
    Meanwhile Bernie is running around the country claiming “People are gunna Die”, Well Bernie, every year people die, whether they’re on SS, Medicaid, or Medicare. My father was covered by VA and SS benefits….but you know what? He died 7 years ago.

    The bottom line, The Democrats forced the ACA on the country and have sat back and watched it fail for the past 7 years. You hear the mis-leading quote “22 million people will be kicked off their healthcare”….. But remember almost 13 million taxpayers claimed one or more
    health care coverage exemptions…. 6.5 million Americans were forced to pay an average penalty of $470 for not having health insurance.

    • David Bell

      I find it interesting you believe people should be ashamed of using a healthcare program designed to provide for those in need, but proud of gutting such a program to provide more wealth to the wealthy.

      If you think people dying of preventable illnesses is just fine, how about setting an example for the rest of us? Give up all health insurance benefits, and write a check for the full amount to the millionaire of your choice; after all since you expect others to be willing to do this, get the ball rolling.

  • Edward Letourneau

    Bernie is just trying to keep his voting base up. Half of Vermont on the free stuff, paid for by the feds. 50% of the Vermont budget is federal money. If that goes away, so does socialist Bernie.

    • walter carpenter

      “If that goes away, so does socialist Bernie.”

      And the half of Vermont will not have health insurance because they cannot hope to afford it, what with the premiums and deductibles, and your costs will really go up. As for Medicaid being free, it is at the point of delivery, just like the Medicare you’re probably on. I am on Medicaid right now and I do pay taxes for it that are extracted from my paycheck every week and in the taxes I pay at tax time. Without it, any condition I have, such as the arthritic knee that is probably going to have to be replaced, will have to hopefully hold out until Medicare.

  • Tim Vincent

    It’s NOT about health insurance, it’s about power.
    Power of the government over our health is a pretty large weapon.
    I know a man, self-employed, healthy;his wife works at Price Chopper for the benefits.
    Her hours were cut back and they had to go to Obamacare.
    $450/ month and $5000 deductible.
    All he wants is hospital insurance;he’ll fund the rest.
    Can’t do that – government decides what coverage he should have and what he should pay for it.
    After all, as we all should acknowledge, the Democrat- socialists are much smarter than the rest of us and we should just shut up and pay up.

  • David Bell

    The term welfare state does not mean what you seem to think it means.


    Regardless, when your solution to people needing a government healthcare program is to gut said program in order to give the wealthy more wealth; how does this help anyone?

    Also, since you define freedom as just another word for nothing left to lose; lead by example.

    • Matt Young

      I don’t believe any of the posters on here want to repeal Obamacare, in order to “give the wealthy more wealth” That’s a pretty broad brush to use on folks who like freedom and understand Obamacare isn’t sustainable.

      • David Bell

        Then they wouldn’t support Trumpcare. Which is entirely based on repeal in order to shovel more money into the pockets of the rich.

        Despite right winger beliefs, freedom is more than just a word for nothing left to lose. And Obamacare is more sustainable than the system right wingers want to bring back.

  • walter carpenter

    “After all, as we all should acknowledge, the Democrat- socialists are much smarter than the rest of us and we should just shut up and pay up.”

    It was us democratic-socialists that brought you medicare that is the best health insurance program we have now. Not many seniors want to go back to private insurance. The ACA is hardly democratic-socialist. If anything it was the government bending over backwards to accommodate private insurance (which has bought the government anyway). In fact, private insurance has done rather well with the ACA.


    • Tim Vincent

      I couldn’t care less about the health of the insurance companies.
      I do care about:
      1 – Freedom of choice, not government-dictated solutions for one-size-fits-all.
      2- Not giving ALL of my money to a corrupt, inefficient, stupid bloated bureaucracy – that thinks it knows best.
      And Medicare?
      People are living longer, thus consuming more health care.
      Medicare is not financially sustainable on its present trajectory.