Republicans eye billions in side deals to win Obamacare repeal votes – Politico

White House and Capitol Hill officials are exploring potential deals to divvy up billions of dollars to individual senators’ priorities in a wide-ranging bid to secure votes for the imperiled GOP health care bill.

A Congressional Budget office score that projected 22 million fewer Americans would have insurance under the plan sent some members fleeing Monday and left the bill in jeopardy of failing to have enough votes to even be called to the Senate floor this week.

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But Republicans in the White House and in Congress were pleasantly surprised that the bill included more savings than they expected — and are trying to figure out if they can dole it out for votes.

The Senate has about $188 billion to play with.

Among the possible changes: More spending for health savings accounts to appease conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee, according to three people familiar with the matter, and some additional Medicaid and opioid spending for moderates.

“We are still working with leadership to change the base bill,” a Lee aide said.

Lee, Cruz and others on the right have been looking to wipe out as much of Obamacare as possible and replace it with health savings accounts, group plans and selling insurance across state lines, among other ideas. It’s not clear if the Senate parliamentarian would allow all of those proposals through under strict reconciliation rules. And Lee will likely require far more dramatic changes to be won over.

The bill remains in peril. It is also unclear whether there is enough money to give out that could win over the divided GOP conference.

Time is of the essence.

McConnell has said he wants a vote this week no matter what, even as some White House officials have said they wouldn’t mind a delay and are fearful the votes aren’t there with the current legislation.

“You could make an argument for delaying it if you could get a better policy but this is the best we could do to satisfy all the different aspects of our conferences,” Thune said.

“There’s no reason not to get this done this week,” said Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri. “And the CBO score was a little better than I thought it would be.”

White House officials said they were increasingly looking to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) — and if the two maintained their opposition, the bill was likely dead. Senate leadership has largely written off Paul, and a Trump outside group has begun attacking Heller, drawing some head-scratching from Senate aides.

Tim Alberta contributed to this report.

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