Conservative Koch network criticizes U.S.
Senate healthcare bill
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[June 26, 2017]
By James Oliphant
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Reuters) -
Officials with the conservative U.S. political network overseen by the
Koch brothers say they are unhappy with the healthcare bill that may be
voted on by the Senate this week and will lobby for changes to it.
At a weekend event with conservative donors, top aides to Charles Koch,
the billionaire energy magnate, said the Senate bill does not go far
enough to dismantle former President Barack Obama's signature healthcare
law, also known as Obamacare.
“We have been disappointed that movement has not been more dramatic
toward a full repeal,” said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for
Prosperity, a grassroots advocacy group backed by Charles Koch and his
The Senate's 142-page proposal, worked out in secret by a group led by
Senate Majority Leader McConnell, aims to deliver on a central campaign
promise of President Donald Trump to repeal Obamacare, which has
provided coverage to 20 million Americans since its passage in 2010.
Republicans view the law, formally called the Affordable Care Act, as a
costly government intrusion and say individual insurance markets created
by it are collapsing.
Phillips and other aides to the Koch network told Reuters they want to
see the Senate bill do more to roll back Obamacare's expansion of the
Medicaid program for poor and disabled Americans. They also contend the
bill does not do enough to reform the U.S. healthcare system and cut
The aides said lobbying efforts to reshape the bill are continuing ahead
of a planned vote.
Similar concerns helped steer the House’s version of the bill in a more
conservative direction. A primary mover of that effort, Mark Meadows, a
Republican congressman from North Carolina, attended the Koch donor
Meadows, chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus in the House, said
he is prepared to support the Senate bill if it clears that chamber, a
sign that quick action to land the legislation on Trump’s desk is
However, Meadows said the Senate version of the bill would need to be
amended to allow insurers who sell plans on Obamacare’s insurance
exchanges to offer less-expensive plans that do not comply with that
law’s coverage requirements.
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An Americans for Prosperity banner is seen during an event in
Manchester, New Hampshire, July 22, 2015. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter
Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who currently opposes the
Senate bill, has offered an amendment along those lines. Cruz
attended the Koch event here, as did Senators Jeff Flake of Arizona
and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who remain undecided.
Meadows also seeks an amendment that would allow some consumers who
have private health savings accounts to deduct the cost of insurance
premiums from their taxes.
Senate leaders have set a goal of passing the healthcare measure by
the end of this week, ahead of the July 4 congressional recess,
which would then send it back to the House.
If the Senate passes legislation this week that is palatable to the
House, Meadows said it is conceivable the House could pass that
version and choose to forgo a formal conference committee that would
reconcile the Senate and House bills. That, he said, could result in
sending the bill to Trump’s desk for his signature before the
Getting a vote by the end of the week could be difficult.
Five Senate Republicans, including Cruz, have publicly voiced their
opposition to the current Senate draft. No Senate Democrats are
expected to back it, which means McConnell cannot afford to lose
more than two Senate Republicans.
As a sign of the Koch network’s influence, Phillips said his
organization is prepared to spend as much as $400 million before
next year’s congressional elections to advocate for the network’s
(Reporting By James Oliphant; Editing by Caren Bohan and Dan
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