Maine’s senior U.S. senator cites deep cuts to Medicaid as her reason, but offers to work with Democrats to fix Obamacare.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine says she will not support passage of the newest version of a health care bill developed by her Senate Republican colleagues.

The reworked bill, unveiled Thursday, still proposes deep cuts in Medicaid, which would be converted to a block grant program to the states. Collins’ support was considered critical to the bill’s passage because Republicans can only afford to lose two of their members’ votes and still pass the bill in the face of universal opposition from Democrats.

“Still deep cuts to Medicaid in Senate bill. Will vote no on MTP,” Collins tweeted Thursday afternoon, referring to the necessary Motion to Proceed. “Ready to work w/ GOP & Dem colleagues to fix flaws in ACA,” the Affordable Care Act.

Collins was quoted by a Buzzfeed reporter as saying the “only thing that could change that is if (Congressional Budget Office) analysis … indicates that there would be far fewer changes in Medicaid than I believe.”

Collins had signaled earlier in the week that she was opposed to the proposed Medicaid cuts, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to keep such cuts in the bill has been interpreted as a gamble that she and other moderates would back down. Other Republican senators who have expressed concerns about Medicaid cuts include Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Dean Heller of Nevada, Rob Portman of Ohio, John Hoeven of North Dakota and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, all representing states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA, also known as Obamacare.


Collins, who is entertaining a gubernatorial bid, has hinted that she might be open to expanding the program in Maine, a move that Gov. Paul LePage has consistently opposed. She did not respond to an interview request Thursday.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., announced just before 2 p.m. that he also would oppose the bill, although for different reasons, and Sen. John McCain,, R-Ariz., said he would not vote for it in its current form.

Maine’s other U.S. senator, independent Angus King, denounced the latest Republican version of the health bill in a prepared statement Thursday afternoon.

“This bill is no more encouraging than the last, which is to say it’s still terrible,” King said. “It still includes drastic cuts to Medicaid that will hurt Maine seniors, children and people with disabilities. It still shifts costs to the states. It still has inadequate funding for opioid treatment, and now, by presenting barebones plans, it’s going to drive up the cost of insurance for older, sicker people and likely put health care out of reach for them. None of this is good for Maine.”

King also criticized Senate Republican leaders for crafting a bill in secret that would affect millions of people’s lives and one-sixth of the U.S. economy, calling the process “simply atrocious” and “totally inconsistent with how the Senate was designed to make laws.”

“The Senate needs to abandon this approach and, instead, work in a bipartisan manner to make meaningful improvements to the Affordable Care Act,” he said.


Minutes before McConnell released the latest bill, two other Republican senators, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, announced they were working with Republican colleagues on alternative legislation. Their bill, outlined in media interviews Thursday, appeared similar to one touted earlier this year by Cassidy and Collins, and would keep many of the ACA’s taxes in place while allowing individual states broader latitude in crafting their own health care plans.

“We’re going to see which one can get 50 votes,” Graham told CNN, referring to the number of Republican senators needed to pass the bill.

Collins’ office did not respond to a request for comment on the Graham-Cassidy bill.

Colin Woodard can be contacted at:

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