Senate delaying August recess to work on healthcare bill

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has taken the unusual step of delaying the Senate’s August recess, announcing the chamber will stay in session during the first two weeks of the month to address legislative priorities such as the replacement of the Affordable Care Act.

“In order to provide more time to complete action on important legislative items and process nominees that have been stalled by a lack of cooperation from our friends across the aisle, the Senate will delay the start of the August recess until the third week of August," McConnell said at a Republican lunch on July 11, according to POLITICO.

Numerous senators had asked for a delay or cancellation of the recess to provide more time to hammer out agreements on the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). Aiming to pass the bill without Democratic support, Republican leaders have been unable to bridge the gap between multiple factions within the caucus. Moderates like Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, for example, have said they can’t support the bill due to its impact on Medicaid funding—a 35 percent cut compared to the ACA by 2036, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Conservatives like Sens. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, are asking for more of the ACA’s regulations to be repealed.

Complicating efforts to bring together 50 votes to pass the bill are CBO estimates that 22 million more people will become uninsured under the BCRA. The loss in coverage and the credit risk to providers has healthcare industry nearly united in opposition to the proposal. It’s also unpopular among voters, with opinion polls showing support somewhere between 12 and 38 percent.

The poor showing in polls has led many Republicans to avoid town hall events in their district where those protesting the healthcare bill could question them directly. Sen. David Perdue, R-Georgia, however, said the delay won’t mean legislators can ignore constituents.

“Only in Washington would you ask a question, 'Is there a negative motive to this, of trying to hide away from the questions back home?'” Perdue told reporters at a Capitol Hill press conference. “Believe me, everybody on this stage goes home every weekend. We’re talking to our constituents every day here in Washington, every day when we’re back home. That’s not the purpose of this at all.”