Health and Science

An architect of the GOP Senate health bill says a new version to appease both sides is coming

Key Points
  • Sen. Pat Toomey says a new version of the Senate's Republican health-care bill is expected on Monday.
  • The Pennsylvania Republican, who helped craft the Obamacare replacement, hopes it can appeal to both sides of his party's divide.
  • "We've got to do what it takes to get this bill done," including working through the August recess, he says.
Sen. Pat Toomey: We're in a 'tight spot' with GOP health-care bill

Sen. Pat Toomey says a new version of the Republican health-care bill is expected, and he hopes it can appeal to both sides of his party's divide.

"We've got a new version that comes out today. We'll get new scores from CBO. And there's still a shot of getting to 50 [votes]. Mike Pence breaks the tie," said Toomey, one of 13 senators who worked with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to craft the GOP's Obamacare replacement.

A spokesman for McConnell told CNBC on Monday he does not "have any expectations of a bill release today," though he noted that the majority leader has said a Congressional Budget Office score is "forthcoming."

As vice president, Pence would be the tie-breaking vote if the GOP were able to get 50 senators on board. Republicans hold 52 Senate seats. None of the 46 Democrats or two independents who vote in the Democratic caucus is expected to vote for the GOP Senate bill.

Last month, the Congressional Budget Office said the current version of the GOP Senate bill would lead to 22 million more Americans uninsured in 2026 than under Obamacare over the same period.

In an interview Monday on CNBC's "Squawk Box," Toomey said the new version can be embraced by conservatives who want a more aggressive plan to replace Obamacare and moderate Republicans who want a less dramatic overhaul.

"There's an opportunity to do both," the Pennsylvania Republican said. "We're going to get the specifics of a $45 billion commitment for opioid funding."

"There's also a big push to have a change in the regulatory mandates, so that we can have the lower premiums that we're looking for. People can have more control and more choices that will appeal to the conservatives," he said.

As senators returned to Washington after their Fourth of July week recess, Sen. John McCain said the GOP's effort to replace Obamacare is "probably going to be dead." Fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said he supports the bill.

Toomey said, "We've got to do what it takes to get this bill done," including working through the August recess that runs until Sept. 5.

President Donald Trump prodded Republicans in a tweet on Monday morning.

"I cannot imagine that Congress would dare to leave Washington without a beautiful new HealthCare bill fully approved and ready to go!"

McConnell said last week that if Republicans fail to pass a repeal, they may need to work with Democrats to shore up private health insurance markets to keep them from collapsing.

Working with Democrats would be a "grim" alternative, Toomey told CNBC. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., "has told us what his criteria is. He's happy to work with us as long as nothing gets repealed, the mandates don't go away, taxes remain in place and Medicaid stays on a completely unsustainable fiscal train wreck," Toomey said.

Schumer is expected to talk about health care when the Senate convenes Monday afternoon.

Last week, the Democratic leader in the Senate urged in a local news interview bipartisan cooperation to improve Obamacare.

"No one says Obamacare's perfect," he told Long Island's News 12, but argued against a repeal. "Keep the good and improve the bad. Don't just throw out the whole thing."

Reuters contributed to this report.