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Bennet calls for bipartisanship on healthcare, Gardner says the fight isn’t over yet

Author: Joey Bunch - July 19, 2017 - Updated: July 19, 2017

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As it became clear Republicans would not be able to replace Obamacare Tuesday, Colorado’s Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet offered another suggestion: work together to fix healthcare. Sen. Cory Gardner said to push ahead, but he didn’t say to where or how.

“It’s past time for a bipartisan approach that lowers costs and improves outcomes,” Bennett said. “Cutting taxes for special interests while slashing funds for Medicaid does literally nothing but make our challenges in healthcare worse. We should turn our attention to competition, transparency, and affordability so that we can create a system that serves all Coloradans.”

With Republicans clinging to just a two-seat majority in the Senate, four members bolted from the plan supported by President Trump, which The Hill newspaper called a “stunning collapse.”

GOP leaders are weighing whether to seek a simple repeal, undoing Obamacare and returning to the system it replaced.

“Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement Monday evening.

Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas said they couldn’t support it.

Brandon Rittiman at 9News laid out concisely Gardner’s vague positions on how he would vote. Though he participated in drafting the failed bill, Gardner never went on record saying he would vote for it, though he was never viewed as a vote on the bubble. He also hasn’t said whether he would support a repeal without a replacement.

“We will continue our work to get our job done to make sure the status quo no longer stands, and we instead provide relief to the American people,” he told the press at the Capitol, surrounded by fellow Republican Senate members, including McConnell.

Gardner has been the target of impassioned protests by advocacy groups and liberal political operatives hoping to use the healthcare vote against him when he runs for re-election in 2020.

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican from Aurora, voted against the House version of the Republican health-care overhaul over concerns about protections for people with pre-existing conditions. He sounded more like Bennet than Gardner Tuesday evening.

“Real people are suffering because the Affordable Care Act is not working. Republicans promised to repeal and replace Obamacare,” Coffman said in a statement. “There are legitimate differences of opinion in our Conference about how we accomplish that, but we need to bridge them and get this job done. I have presented an alternate, common-sense path forward, I believe would have bipartisan support and help us deliver better care at lower costs for all Americans”

Adela Flores-Brennan, executive director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative and coalition manager for the Protect Our Care Colorado Coalition, said Coloradans can’t afford a sigh of relief as long as McConnell is still talking about repealing the Affordable Care Act next week, without a replacement.  

“This plan is a clear abdication of responsibility that will lead to 32 million Americans losing coverage and chaos in our health care system,” she said. “Whether it is a repeal bill or some other effort, we will continue this fight until there is no longer a threat to the health care of millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Coloradans.”

Jimmy Sengenberger, the president and CEO of the conservative Millennial Policy Center in Denver, called out Republicans for a “failure of leadership.”

The think tank that focuses on issues affecting younger Americans released a policy paper on the cost of healthcare in March.

“Unfortunately, it is now officially an Obamacare world, and we all just live in it,” Sengenberger said in an e-mailed statement. “Policymakers may instead need to look to #PiecemealRepeal, that is, repealing and replacing Obamacare in a piecemeal fashion that blunts the blow of the death spiral on Americans by chipping away at and replacing many of the law’s crushing provisions.”

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.