U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein angrily pummeled the Republican health care bill as the most indefensible legislation she’s seen in her nearly quarter-century in Washington, suggesting Tuesday that Democrats and a handful of tentative Republicans were on their way to defeating it.
“I am optimistic that it is doable to kill it,” Feinstein said, urging Californians to flood the lines of her Republican colleagues ahead of a vote that has been delayed.
She believes at least three Senate Republicans are certain to oppose the bill and another three or four are on the cusp.
“If this bill is solidly dead, not just by one or two votes, but I would hope by 10 or 12 votes, then we can talk about what our priorities are to bring people together, not to split them apart, and to make changes ... that might be helpful.”
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Feinstein, leading a conference call with Sen. Kamala Harris and Gov. Jerry Brown, tore into the health care bill as a gift to the wealthiest Americans in the form of tax breaks at the expense of the poor and lamented that it was drafted “in secret by 12 white men.”
The GOP-led Senate and House plans would make significant cuts to Medicaid, a program for the poor that in California covers more than 13 million people, including half of the state’s children.
“Can you even believe what this does for wealthy people who can afford whatever they want with respect to healthcare?” she asked. “And all these children, five million of them that depend on Medi-Cal, or there is no health care,” Feinstein said.
In an uncharacteristic aside, she added, “My voice level goes up two octaves when I talk about it – it makes me so upset.”
Harris pointed to a process in the bill allowing states to waive an essential health benefits requirement, which range from emergency services to mental health and substance-abuse treatment and maternity care. She also took aim at Republicans’ criticism of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which this week estimated the bill would leave 22 million fewer Americans with health insurance by 2026.
“They are going to have to just get comfortable with the fact that sometimes people are calling balls and strikes,” Harris said. “And, in this case, it’s a strikeout for this health care bill.”
Brown, drawing on the millions who benefit from federal funding, denounced the bill as a “very divisive, hateful” piece of legislation and said it underscored the country’s increased polarization.
“From the time I got into politics until now, a wide spectrum of groups are getting more impatient, even bordering on it being intolerant. They are pushing, pushing, pushing,” he said. “Our democratic system depends, for its survival, on deeper consensus about the fundamentals. Health care ... is a fundamental.”