Dems will try forcing Senate vote against Trump health plan

WASHINGTON — Democrats will try forcing a campaign-season vote on blocking a Trump administration rule letting insurers sell short-term plans that are cheaper but skimpier than allowed under the Obama health care law, party leaders said Thursday.

Though the effort has a chance of passing the narrowly divided Senate, it is certain to die in the Republican-controlled House and would never be signed by President Donald Trump.

Even so, Democrats believe a pre-election Senate vote would put some GOP senators in a difficult spot. The new plans won't necessarily contain popular features like covering people with pre-existing medical conditions or certain benefits like prescription drugs.

"This is an issue the American people should know where everyone stands," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a conference call with reporters. With many Republicans saying they back covering people with pre-existing medical problems, Schumer added, "Let them instead of saying they're for it actually do something to preserve pre-existing conditions."

The effort underscores how Democrats view health care as a vote-moving issue in this year's midterm elections.

Democrats said they will use the seldom-utilized Congressional Review Act, which under some circumstances lets any senator force a vote on overturning recent actions taken by federal agencies.

Republicans have used the procedure to roll back environmental and safety regulations approved late in President Barack Obama's administration. In May, Democrats won enough GOP votes to force a measure through the Senate reviving Obama-era "net neutrality" rules aimed at providing equal treatment for all Internet traffic, but that legislation is going nowhere in the House.

GOP Senate leadership aides declined to comment on Democrats' plans.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., who faces a potentially competitive re-election contest in November, will lead the effort to thwart Trump's short-term health care plans. She said 1 in 4 of her constituents have pre-existing conditions, "and they cannot afford to have the health care they depend on threatened."

The new plans represent one of many Trump administration moves aimed at weakening Obama's 2010 law, following Congress' attempt to repeal it last year ended in an embarrassing Senate defeat.

The policies will last up to 12 months and can be renewed for up to 36 months. They will have lower premiums and offer less coverage than those offered on the Obama law's online marketplaces, and could confront purchasers with huge costs if they become seriously ill.

Republicans control the Senate 51-49, but Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has been absent since December battling brain cancer.

Democrats would need at least one GOP lawmaker to side with them to prevail in the Senate. They are viewed as having a chance of capturing Senate control in this fall's elections.

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