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Four GOP senators will not support current Obamacare replacement, push for changes

  • Four Republican senators announced they will not support the Senate's current Obamacare replacement plan and will push for changes.
  • Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson and Mike Lee say it does not go far enough to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
  • Paul tells reporters he does not want to defeat the bill.

Four Republican senators — enough to thwart passage — said Thursday they will not support the current Senate Obamacare replacement plan and will seek changes.

Conservatives Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Mike Lee of Utah said in a statement that they "are not ready to vote" for the proposal Senate Republicans released Thursday.

"There are provisions in this draft that represent an improvement to our current health care system, but it does not appear this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise that we made to Americans: to repeal Obamacare and lower their health care costs," the senators said.

Paul told reporters that "my hope is not to defeat the bill, but to make the bill better." He said, "We want the bill to look more like a repeal."

Cruz told reporters that "I think we can get there, but the current draft doesn't do nearly enough."

Senate Republicans on Thursday morning released a draft of their secretive Obamacare replacement bill, called the "Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017." The plan would repeal Obamacare taxes, restructure subsidies to insurance customers that are based on their incomes and phase out Medicaid's expansion program. It contains some key differences from the version the House passed last month.

The House GOP initially faced enough skepticism from its members to sink its health-care plan. But Republicans won over skeptical members with last-second amendments and passed the bill by a narrow margin.

Senate Republicans now face the same problem their House counterparts did: appeasing the party's conservative wing without alienating moderates. Some senators have previously expressed concerns about how quickly the House plan phased out Medicaid expansion and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office's estimate that it would make costs spike for older, poorer Americans.

If three Republicans defect, the party cannot reach the majority vote it needs to pass the measure.

Moderate GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Dean Heller of Nevada are among those who could potentially oppose the plan.

In a statement, Heller did not endorse or support it but said that, "at first glance, I have serious concerns about the bill's impact on the Nevadans who depend on Medicaid." Most other moderate senators said they needed to take more time to review the plan.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that a report on the bill's effects from the CBO is expected next week. He may push for a vote on it as soon as late next week.

Opposition to the House version appears to be growing. Americans consider the House Republican health-care bill to be a bad idea by a 3-to-1 margin, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

— CNBC's Dan Mangan contributed to this report

Watch: Only 16% think GOP bill a good idea