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Health care bill teeters, GOP adds money to woo dissidents

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By Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Top Republicans are adding money to their staggering effort to repeal the Obama health care law and say they’re pushing toward a climactic Senate faceoff this week. Yet their path to succeeding in their last-gasp effort has grown narrower, perhaps impossible.

FILE - In this Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, file photo, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks to members of the media while attending an event in Lewiston, Maine. Collins said Sunday, Sept. 24, she finds it "very difficult" to envision backing the last-chance GOP bill repealing the Obama health care law. That likely opposition leaves the Republican drive to fulfill one of the party's premier campaign promises dangling by a thread. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

FILE – In this Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, file photo, US Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks to members of the media while attending an event in Lewiston, Maine. Collins said Sunday, Sept. 24, she finds it “very difficult” to envision backing the last-chance GOP bill repealing the Obama health care law.  (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

GOP senators’ opposition to their party’s drive to scrap President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act swelled to lethal numbers Sunday. Moderate Sen. Susan Collins all but closed the door on supporting the teetering bill and conservative Sen. Ted Cruz said that “right now” he doesn’t back it.

President Donald Trump has pressed for a fresh vote, and White House legislative liaison Marc Short and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of the measure’s sponsors, said Republicans would move toward a vote this week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he intends to consider the measure but hasn’t firmly committed to a vote.

The Congressional Budget Office was expected to release its analysis of the legislation early this week.

But the CBO, which is lawmakers’ nonpartisan fiscal analyst, has said that it doesn’t have time to determine the bill’s impact on coverage and premiums, major factors for some lawmakers deciding their votes. Instead, the office is expected to only detail its estimates of the measure’s effect on federal deficits.

A vote must occur this week for Republicans to have any chance of prevailing with their narrow Senate majority. Next Sunday, protections expire against a Democratic filibuster, bill-killing delays that Republicans lack the votes to overcome.

Already two GOP senators, Rand Paul of Kentucky and John McCain of Arizona, have said they oppose the legislation. All Democrats will vote against it. “No” votes from three of the 52 GOP senators would kill the party’s effort to deliver on its perennial vow to repeal “Obamacare” and would reprise the party’s politically jarring failure to accomplish that this summer.

In a late stab at attracting votes, Republicans were adding $14.5 billion to the measure including extra funds for states of dissenting GOP senators, according to documents obtained late Sunday by The Associated Press.

A chart Republicans circulated said the legislation’s grants would provide 14 percent more money for Arizona than under Obama’s law; 4 percent more for Kentucky; 49 percent more for Texas; 3 percent more for Alaska, home to undecided GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski; and 43 percent more for Maine, home to Collins. Some extra money is specifically directed at sparsely populated states.

The numbers are misleading, partly because they omit GOP Medicaid cuts from clamping per-person spending caps on the program, said Matt House, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. In a statement, Schumer said the measure would “throw our health insurance system into chaos.”

Collins’ criticisms included the bill’s cuts in the Medicaid program for low-income people and the likelihood that it would result in many losing health coverage and paying higher premiums.

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