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More Republicans announce opposition to health-care bill — only after vote is delayed

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) listens during a hearing on Capitol Hill on June 20. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)
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This item has been updated.

Now you tell us.

Three more Republican senators announced opposition to the Senate’s health-care bill on Tuesday — but only after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced he will delay a vote to begin debating the legislation.

News of the delay came at approximately 12:45 p.m., and McConnell explained his decision to reporters less two hours later. That was around the time that Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) announced that he would have voted against beginning debate on the bill.

In a subsequent tweet, Moran said that “now is the time to take a step back and put the full legislative process to work.”

At 3:54 p.m. — more than three hours after news leaked of the bill’s delay — Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) joined the bandwagon. The duo has been negotiating for more federal funding to help combat opioid addiction, an epidemic especially ravaging their home states.

The bill “includes some promising changes to reduce premiums in the individual insurance market, but I continue to have real concerns about the Medicaid policies in this bill, especially those that impact drug treatment at a time when Ohio is facing an opioid epidemic,” Portman said.

Capito added that “this bill will not ensure access to affordable health care in West Virginia, does not do enough to combat the opioid epidemic that is devastating my state, cuts traditional Medicaid too deeply and harms rural health-care providers.”

So why the delay? A spokesman for Moran said that the senator’s opposition would have been made known before the vote, if one had been scheduled, and that the decision to delay a vote didn’t factor into his announcement. In a statement last week, Moran made clear that “If this bill isn’t good for Kansas, it isn’t good for me” — a broad statement designed to keep the door open either way.

Portman and Capito, who have been working on finding more funding to combat opioid addiction for months, were in talks Tuesday to make their opposition known before McConnell’s announcement and didn’t realize he was going to announce his intentions during the weekly GOP luncheon, according to aides to the senators who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the deliberations. Both camps said it was still important to express their opposition.

With Capito, Moran and Portman now opposed to the bill, at least nine Republican senators are on the record as being against the legislation in its current form. The six other senators — Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — all announced their intentions before McConnell’s decision.