Female Republican Senators Are Helping Shape The Healthcare Debate

Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images.
Republican leaders wanted to vote on their Senate healthcare bill by the end of the week, but the vote was postponed after it became clear it didn't have enough support to pass as it is. The proposed law will fail if more than two Republicans vote against it, as Senate Democrats all oppose the reform, and such a small margin gives a lot of power to the five Republican women in the Senate.
All eyes are on GOP Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who previously broke from their party to oppose defunding Planned Parenthood. Both representatives voted against a law President Trump signed in April allowing states to withhold federal family planning funds from clinics that perform abortions and sponsored an amendment to a previous failed Obamacare repeal bill aimed at keeping Planned Parenthood funded. Women's groups strongly oppose the current Senate healthcare proposal, and NARAL Pro-Choice America called it "the most savage attack on women's health in a generation" in an email urging people to fight the legislation.
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Sen. Collins voiced her concern about the Senate's proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act on Sunday, specifically regarding the deep Medicaid cuts and a provision that would withhold all federal funds from Planned Parenthood for a year (which is also in the House's approved bill).
"It makes absolutely no sense to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood," the Maine representative told ABC News. "There are already longstanding restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion, so that's not what this debate is about. And Planned Parenthood is an important provider of healthcare services, including family planning and cancer screenings for millions of Americans, particularly women."
And once the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its official analysis of the proposed law on Monday, revealing that 22 million more people would lose insurance by 2026 if it becomes law, Collins took to Twitter to explicitly say she'll vote against it.
"I want to work w/ my GOP and Dem colleagues to fix the flaws in ACA," she wrote, referring to the Affordable Care Act (i.e. Obamacare). "CBO analysis shows Senate bill won't do it."
Sen. Murkowski also spoke out about the proposed cuts to Planned Parenthood's funding. She told MSNBC on Tuesday: "People support greater access to health care. Planned Parenthood provides for that — provides for greater access, particularly to lower income women, for purposes of screening services that I think are important."
She continued, "When we are talking about health care reform, shouldn't it be about increasing access?"
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Sen. Shelley Moore Capito came out against the bill on Tuesday, as well, tweeting that it doesn’t do enough to combat the opioid epidemic, cuts traditional Medicaid too deeply, and harms rural healthcare providers. However, she didn't specifically mentioned the provision to defund Planned Parenthood that would force millions of its patients who depend on Medicaid to find another healthcare provider, if there's even another option nearby.
The two other female Republicans, Sens. Joni Ernst and Deb Fischer, haven't said where they stand on the issue.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is hoping to pass the Better Care Reconciliation Act after Congress returns from its July 4 recess. Republican Sens. Rand Paul, Dean Heller, Mike Lee, and Ron Johnson have all said they'll vote against the measure in its current form.
This story was originally published on June 27, 2017.
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