Obamacare replacement 'can't pass Senate without major changes,' Trump ally says

With friends like these, who needs enemies for "Trumpcare?"

A leading ally of President Donald Trump warned that a Republican proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare would be defeated in the Senate if it is not significantly changed.

Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, also urged GOP leaders in the House of Representatives to slow down in their replacement effort, and "start over" on their bill, known as the American Health Care Act.

Cotton's admonitions, made in a series of early morning tweets, are the latest sign that the Republican House bill could face a very difficult road for winning passage in Congress.

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A number of conservative members of the House and Senate, as well as right-leaning think tanks and health analysts, have sharply criticized the bill promoted by the GOP leadership.

Trump has said he supports the bill. Early Thursday afternoon, the president brushed aside growing skepticism about the proposal on Twitter.

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Cotton noted in one of his tweets that the House bill has yet to be "scored" by the Congressional Budget Office. That score would indicate the bill's expected effect on the federal budget, as well as how many Americans would be expected to lose, or gain, health insurance coverage if it were to become law.

Democrats, who staunchly oppose replacing Obamacare, likewise have blasted House Republicans for rushing to pass the bill without first getting the CBO's estimates.

Democrats have said the $600 billion in tax cuts that the bill would implement over a decade would drive up the federal deficit. And they expect the bill would lead to the loss of insurance for millions of people.

GOP leaders are trying to kill and replace several major parts of Obamacare through the process known as budget reconciliation.

If the Senate parliamentarian agrees that the bill qualifies for that process because it is budget-specific, Republicans would need just 50 votes in the Senate, where they hold 52 seats, to pass the proposal.

But four GOP senators have already expressed opposition to the idea of rolling back gains made in Medicaid coverage under Obamacare, as the new GOP bill could well do. Other Republicans have objected to the bill's use of refundable tax credits to subsidize the purchase of private individual health insurance plans, while other GOP members opposed the defunding of Planned Parenthood in the bill.

If the parliamentarian does not agree that bill can be passed through reconciliation, Republicans would need 60 senators to vote for the bill. That would likely be an impossible hurdle, given how firmly Democrats are opposed to it.

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