Frantic for "yes" votes, the Republican leadership is trying to entice Sen. Lisa Murkowski with a billion-dollar sweetheart deal for Alaska.
Desperate at this point to collect enough support to even get the Republican Party’s health care bill to the Senate floor for a vote, let alone with enough backing to pass it, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is using billions in funds to try to win over reluctant GOP senators.
Even if that means writing into the bill provisions — or political bribes — that only apply to one state.
As Bloomberg reported Thursday, the Republican bill to repeal Obamacare now includes a gift of millions of dollars for Alaska — and only Alaska.
It is not a coincidence that Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, has thus far refused to say yes to supporting the bill.
In the key provision, the 49th state would receive a larger portion of money for health insurers meant to stabilize markets where people buy their coverage. In the payment formula created by Republicans, only Alaska would qualify. Alaska has long featured unique health care challenges due to its unmatched rural areas, combined with having fewer than one million total residents.
Bloomberg estimates Alaska could bank $360 million between 2019-2021 alone, and $1.3 billion between 2019-2026, thanks to this addition.
The so-called slush fund that McConnell’s playing with came out of the Congressional Budge Office’s “score” of the GOP’s first draft of bill last month. It estimated $188 billion in deficit savings beyond what is required of the bill, which means McConnell could use that money to try to turn around some Republican “no” votes.
Murkowski hasn’t stated where she stands on the Republican redraft, complete with the Alaska bribe. But the bribe does nothing to address Murkowski’s other publicly stated problem with the GOP health care bill: It would ban funding to Planned Parenthood for at least one year.
Even if the sweetheart deal wins over Murkowski’s support, that doesn’t mean McConnell is in the clear. He faces a wicket of complications trying to maintain “yes” votes from 50 of the GOP’s 52 senators. Every Democratic senator stands opposed to the bill.
With every public utterance, Maine Sen. Susan Collins is making it clear she will vote no, saying she is "unable to support the bill," which means the GOP can lose only one more senator.
At the same time that Murkowski — along with Republican Sens. Dean Heller, Rob Portman, and Shelley Moore Capito — have indicated concerns about the proposed bill’s massive Medicaid cuts, arch conservatives like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are upset those cuts don’t go deep enough.
The entire process, now featuring eight-figure bribes for states like Alaska, is still being done in secret, without any congressional hearings on the bill, without any expert testimony, and without the ability for Democrats to offer any amendments to legislation that could radically alter the way millions of Americans receive health care.