A rival group of Republican senators is seeking leverage to influence the direction of the Senate’s ObamaCare replacement bill.
The group, led by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), has been meeting “a couple times a week,” according to Sen. Shelly Moore Capitol (R-W.Va.).
Cassidy is a physician and Collins is a former state insurance commissioner. Both have been outspoken opponents of the House-passed American Healthcare Act, and have co-sponsored their own version of an ObamaCare repeal bill called the Patient Freedom Act.
Cassidy told The Hill he and Collins have been meeting with Senate leaders to talk about their legislation. However, he noted the politics of the Senate mean that every member’s voice matters.
“When you only have 52 senators, everybody has significant leverage. That tight vote margin means everyone is essential,” Cassidy said.
The main GOP working group on healthcare includes 13 men backed by Senate leadership who are seeking to bridge the divide between conservatives and centrists.
What ever legislation emerges from that group is likely to be the bill that comes to the Senate floor.
But if all of the Senate’s Democrats oppose the measure, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will only be able to afford two defections.
That gives the other group leverage.
“Let’s look at it practically,” Capito told The Hill. “You can only lose two votes on any one issue … so I think a bloc of four or five can be very effective.”
Health lobbyists have noted many members of the leadership-led group have been fairly measured in their criticisms of the House bill approved earlier this month.
Collins and Cassidy, in contrast, both seem keen on turning sharply from the House bill.