U.S. citizens paying attention to events surrounding the GOP attempt to make changes to the nation's healthcare system are witnessing one example of democracy in action as Obamacare opponent Republican Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson questions the recently released Senate proposal for changes to the law.
Johnson won his Senate seat in 2010 against Democrat incumbent Russ Feingold largely on the platform of criticizing what was then the nation's newly enacted healthcare law. In the past several years, he has sponsored many bills against Obamacare and attempted to take one challenge to the Supreme Court.
Yet, as explained Saturday in Politico, Johnson has become a "surprise holdout" when it comes to passing the Senate's plan. Johnson has teamed up with three other senators, with his main criticisms being that he felt lawmakers were not given enough time to analyze the proposed changes and that there were not enough provisions to bring down the cost of premiums. His other concern was to protect states that refused Medicaid expansion.
"It's not a bluff," Johnson told Politico. "Until I have the information where I am certain this is… in the best interest for the folks in Wisconsin — that this puts us in a better position tomorrow than we are today — I'm not going to be voting yes."
Johnson has joined with Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, who are expressing an openness to negotiation but who have indicated they could not support the proposal in its present form.
On Friday, Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who faces a tough reelection campaign in 2018, announced he would oppose the bill as well. Heller said his opposition lay in it being too conservative, with the main issue that it did not protect states that had expanded Medicaid.
Johnson is a former business owner and accountant, and has maintained senators needed to focus on policy and not politics regarding changes to healthcare legislation. Senate leadership attempted to address Johnson's concerns by including policy experts in the meetings where the changes were being negotiated.
Johnson said he had been voicing the need for information "repeatedly throughout the process" of negotiations, and said after the Senate proposal was released on Thursday he had "a number of staff members come over offering to provide whatever information I need, which is good."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has to make a careful balance in order to get the 50 senators needed to pass the Senate bill. Some senators have called for an all-out repeal of Obamacare, while others are focused on whether or not the new law would defund abortion, with GOP senators on both sides of the issue.
Another point of contention in the bill is medical coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, and senators are looking for solutions to address those concerns.
Johnson said in order to analyze the effects the bill would have on the nation's health system, doctors and hospitals, he wanted to see the Congressional Budget Office score, which is expected to be released days before McConnell wants to hold a vote for the bill in the Senate.
"I have a hard time believing I'll have that information prior to when leadership may want to vote on this," he said following the release of the bill on Thursday.
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