Senate Republican leaders have not given up on their health-care bill, after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) delayed a planned vote for this week until after the July 4 recess. McConnell and his lieutenants are trying to find changes that will bring at least 50 of the 52 Senate Republicans in line on the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), and one tool they are using is money. Monday's Congressional Budget Office score sent some Republicans running for cover, but it also gave McConnell $188 billion he could spend winning over members of his caucus.
Even before pulling the bill from an imminent floor vote, McConnell was considering channeling some of that pot of cash to health savings accounts, to win over conservative holdouts like Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Mike Lee (Utah), Politico reports, while more moderate Republicans from states that expanded Medicaid under ObamaCare lobbied for shallower cuts to Medicaid and more money to fight opioid addiction. Tuesday was supposed to be "all about side deals," a Senate aide told Politico, though McConnell clearly did not reach such deals with enough senators as of Tuesday night.
McConnell's other move on Tuesday was to gather his entire GOP caucus at the White House, where President Trump listened to the concerns of GOP senators, sitting between two key holdouts, Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska). Last week, senior political appointees at the Labor Department and Homeland Security Departments ordered staffers to write up a rule that would allow more H-2B temporary foreign work visas, "specifically mentioning innkeepers and fisheries in Maine and Alaska," Pro Publica reports, citing "three people with knowledge of the discussions." Collins and Murkowski have been pushing for more H-2B visas for their states for months, ahead of the peak summer season, to no avail.
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No political officials directly tied the expedited visa rule to the BCRA, and a spokeswoman for Collins insisted, "There is no link — and there has been no attempt to link — this issue with the health-care bill." But staffers were concerned enough about the legal and ethical ramifications of tailoring the H-2B policy to fit two specific states that they pushed back. "It's not appropriate to pick and choose [which state or industry] should be winners and losers," said Laurie Flanagan at the H2-B Workforce Coalition. You can read more about foreign work visas and health-care politics at Pro Publica.
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