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Mitch McConnell downplays all-male Senate health-care group: 'Everybody's at the table'

  • Mitch McConnell defends the Senate's all-male health-care working group
  • "Nobody's being excluded based on gender," McConnell says
  • Five Republican women serve in the Senate

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed back Tuesday against criticism about diversity in the Senate's health-care legislation process, saying all 52 Republican senators will have input on the plan.

"Nobody's being excluded based on gender ... Everybody's at the table," McConnell told reporters, following concerns that the 13-member health-care working group comprised of white men would do most of the Senate's work on an overhaul of the U.S. health-care system.

Five Republican women serve in the Senate, and any bill that passes the chamber would need support from most of those senators. McConnell disputed the importance of the working group, saying members outside of it will have input in regular full caucus meetings.

The 13-member working group met for the first time on Tuesday.

The House last week sent its Obamacare replacement bill to the Senate amid protests that it acted too quickly on the plan. Now, the Senate — which often moves more slowly than the House — will look to craft a plan that's acceptable to nearly all of its Republican members, which could mean starting a bill from scratch.

The GOP has to balance the concerns of its members — it can only afford two Senate defections — while following rules that would allow it to pass a bill with a 51-vote majority. The Senate could take until its August recess to create a plan that can win the support needed, Politico reported Tuesday, citing Republican sources.