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Democrats Criticize Senate Health Care Working Group for Lacking Diversity

A group of 13 senators are crafting their own health care plan that is likely to look much different from what the House passed but includes no women.
US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (C), Republican of Kentucky, speaks alongside Republican Senate leadership to the press about the vote for Neil Gorsuch to serve on the Supreme Court, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, April 4, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEBSAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty ImagesSAUL LOEB / AFP - Getty Images

Even as House Republicans were wheeling and dealing to get their health care plan passed, a group of 13 senators have been meeting for weeks now to craft their own measure that is likely to look much different from the version voted out of the House Thursday. And Democrats are already pouncing on the group because of it's lack of diversity.

The group's creation is outside of the normal committee process where legislation is crafted but includes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who has signed on to the group.

“As the Senate continues its work on fixing the broken promises of Obamacare, senators from throughout the conference have been working on solutions,” McConnell spokesman David Popp said, “Those meetings and efforts continue, including chairmen of the relevant committees and leadership.”

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a member of the group, said it was formed to garner consensus.

“The Majority Leader has pulled together a group — a working group that represent different approaches and trying to get consensus there,” Cornyn said, “And we’re going through the issues methodically and we’re just getting started.”

Related: Senators Turn to Health Care Bill and They Have Issues

Notably missing from the working group are any of the five GOP women senators, particularly Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, two moderate votes Republicans will need to get a bill passed through the senate.

And Democrats have already attacked the group for that lack of diversity.

The group does include an ideologically diverse group of Republicans, ranging from Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, who are pushing for a complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act, to Senators Rob Portman of Ohio and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania who want to protect Medicaid.

The Senate can pass any health care bill with Republican votes alone, but with just a 52-seat majority, they can only afford to lose two votes. That tight margin is likely to make assembling a bill that appeals to the full spectrum of GOP senators just as difficult as it was in the House.

Related: House Narrowly Passes GOP Health Care Bill

Members of leadership are a part of the group and so are the heads of relative committees that would write health care legislation.

Here are the senators who are part of the group:

  • Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
  • Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX)
  • Conference Chairman John Thune (R-SD)
  • Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY)
  • Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY)
  • Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
  • Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
  • Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA)
  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)
  • Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
  • Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR)
  • Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO)
  • Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)