U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, said Friday that Democrats are “finally” admitting they need to work across the aisle to find bipartisan solutions to the nation’s health care system, adding that the failure by GOP senators to overturn the Affordable Care Act won’t stop efforts to replace the legislation, known as Obamacare.
“It’s frustrating that now the recent repeal and replace vote is over we are starting to finally hear supporters of the Affordable Care Act make some of the exact points about the problems with the Affordable Care Act that they attacked Republicans for making over the last few months,” said Gardner, who was one of 13 Republican senators tasked with writing the Senate’s version of health care legislation behind closed doors earlier this year. “We are finally starting to hear those that refused to work with Republicans admit that costs are going up under this law and something needs to be done to address it.”
He added that he’s “worked so hard to replace this government takeover of our healthcare for one reason and one reason only – my constituents.” Among the problems he listed under the Obamacare were “skyrocketing premiums,” nearly 150,000 Colorado residents who didn’t buy insurance coverage facing IRS fines and just one or two insurers offering plans in a majority of the state’s counties.
“The vote last night can’t stop this effort,” Gardner said. “I’ve always urged Democrats to work with Republicans in a bipartisan manner to find solutions that drives down costs and stabilizes the insurance market. I’m not going to stop trying to fix this healthcare problem, the status quo is unacceptable.”
His Democratic colleague, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, for months has been blasting Senate Republicans for drafting their legislation in secret and without input from Democrats. On Thursday, before the final cliffhanger vote that killed the last GOP bill up for debate this week, he excoriated Republicans for declining to hold a single committee hearing on the legislation before proceeding to votes on the floor.
“Talk about ‘read the bill,’ how about have a bill that’s written down on paper so we can read it? Where are my brethren in the Tea Party that wanted to read the other bill?” he said in a speech on the Senate floor, referring to complaints made by conservatives when Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010. “There was a bill then. There had been a bill for a year and a half. There’s no bill! There’s no bill.”
A month ago, Bennet called in another speech on the Senate floor for Republicans to bring Democrats into their discussions on the legislation.
“I am all for working together in a bipartisan way to address the issues in our healthcare system — that go far beyond the Affordable Care Act — to make sure people in America do not have to continue to make choices other people all over the world are not having to make,” he said.
Senate Democrats have been imploring GOP leaders to open up the process and work across the aisle for months.
In a January letter, for instance, Bennet and a dozen other moderate Democrats wrote Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel and two powerful committee chairs, “We remain committed to improving the (Affordable Care Act), and we urge you to work with us now — to increase affordability for families, protect communities, help small businesses, and continue important protections for the most vulnerable.” In March, Bennet was among 42 Senate Democrats who asked House Republicans to open up the process. “Instead of supporting a fatally-flawed, incomplete, partisan bill, we hope you will take us up on our sincere offer to improve health care for all Americans,” they wrote.
Gardner voted with most of his fellow Republicans on every key vote this week, including casting votes to repeal major provisions of Obamacare without replacing them, to repeal the health care law and replace it with a new plan and to repeal the individual and employer mandates under Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood.
That last vote, on legislation called the “skinny” repeal, went down by a single vote after midnight Thursday night when Arizona Sen. John McCain joined Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski to scotch it. (The GOP holds a 52-48 majority in the Senate so could only afford to lose two votes, with Vice President Mike Pence on hand to cast a tie-breaking vote.)