Alaska

The ‘Wait and See’ Caucus vs. the ‘Not Yet’ Quartet
Republicans show wide range of reaction to health care draft

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul was one of four Republican senators who said he wouldn’t support the current Senate health care bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The divisions among Senate Republicans on their health care bill to change the U.S. health insurance system can be summed up as the interests of the “Wait and See” caucus versus the “Not Yet” quartet.

Four members on Thursday, just hours after the text of the draft was posted online, said they are “not yet ready” to vote for the proposal that would make significant changes to the Medicaid program and alter some aspects of the current health care law.

Health Care Politics Serve as Senate Bill Text Prelude
Wednesday’s campaign fodder a preview of Thursday’s discussion draft

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is preparing to release a draft bill to rework the U.S. health insurance system he has assembled in secret. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate procedural wonks huddled Wednesday with the parliamentarian’s office, making their case for whether Republican legislation to rework the health insurance system complies with the chamber’s rules, even as Washington braced for the release of the draft GOP measure. 

Over the next week, though, the debate will play out on both the procedural and political fields.

Rural Areas Brace for Health Care Bill Impact
Senate GOP bill could undermine health insurance coverage

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is concerned her state's residents could lose out on health insurance safeguards. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Senate historically has paid special attention to the needs of rural areas, but as the chamber readies its health care bill, there are concerns that the bill would undermine coverage in those places more than anywhere else.

While the exact text of the Senate bill is not yet posted publicly, all signs point to somewhat similar language to the House bill (HR 1628), which would reduce funding for Medicaid compared to current law and impose caps on Medicaid funding. Under the House bill, older people also would face higher premiums — and rural areas tend to be home to a large number of older Americans.

Staff Departures Undermine GOP Legislative Agenda
A number of key health and tax aides have left Capitol Hill

Eric Ueland, staff director for the Senate Budget Committee, is one of many high-profile staffers leaving Capitol Hill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Key Republican staffers are departing Capitol Hill with the GOP in control of Congress and the White House, raising questions about how the party will advance its ambitious agenda to overhaul the U.S. tax code and health care system.

Senior personnel for the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee have departed and lobbyists say others are preparing to depart the Senate Finance Committee. A handful of health policy staffers for members on those panels have also left for jobs off Capitol Hill and a key individual on the Senate Budget Committee was recently nominated for a senior post at the State Department.

Obamacare in Alaska: Cost-Control Plan Is Challenging but Working
Might be difficult to duplicate in other states

(Photo illustration by Marilyn Gates-Davis and Erin Mershon/CQ Roll Call)

JUNEAU, Alaska — It’s hard to get excited about a health insurance premium spike.

But for Lori Wing-Heier, Alaska’s blunt but friendly state insurance commissioner, the decision by the state’s Blue Cross Blue Shield plan to raise its rates by just 7 percent was a moment of joy.

Race Rating: Virginia Governor Contest Still Leans Democratic
Primary results don’t change GOP nominee’s uphill battle

Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, right, seen here posing for a selfie with Gov. Terry McAuliffe at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia last year, remains the favorite in the commonwealth’s governor’s race this fall. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

While the margins, if not the outcomes, of Virginia’s gubernatorial primaries may have been a surprise, the long view of the race remains the same — Democrats are in position to hold the commonwealth’s governorship in November.

In the Republican primary, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie defeated Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County board of supervisors, 44 percent to 43 percent. It was a closer-than-expected margin of victory for Gillespie, the 2014 Senate nominee, over Stewart, former state chairman for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Bipartisan Medical Marijuana Legislation Reintroduced
Bill would allow states to set their own laws

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who support legislation that would enable states to set their own medical marijuana policies. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

 A bipartisan group of senators and representatives have reintroduced legislation that would enable states to set their own medical marijuana policies.

That is at odds with a letter U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent to congressional leaders, in which he asked that federal medical marijuana protections be reversed.

Isakson’s Senate Barbecue Serves as Congressional Baseball Appetizer
Ninth annual bipartisan Georgia feast

Senators, including, from left, Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Dan Sullivan of Alaska and Tim Kaine of Virginia, feasted on barbecue at the annual event sponsored by Georgia’s Johnny Isakson. (Courtesy Isakson’s office)

What goes better with baseball than barbecue?

By luck of the calendar — and the timing of a Nationals road trip — Thursday’s Congressional Baseball Game coincides with the Senate’s tradition of a bipartisan summer barbecue.

Republicans Weigh Higher Medicaid Growth Rate for Some States

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, right, says Medicaid is among the big outstanding issues for the health care talks. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

By Joe Williams and Kerry Young, CQ Roll Call

Senate Republicans may provide higher federal funding to states with low Medicaid costs in their health care bill. The proposal under consideration gets to the heart of a key sticking point in the ongoing GOP discussions to overhaul the U.S. health care system: how to equitably treat states with drastically different Medicaid spending levels.

Word on the Hill: Mai Tais Flowing on the Hill
LOC movie series lineup announced

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono prepare to sample Spam musubi at last year’s Taste of Hawaii. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The fourth annual Hawaii on the Hill begins today. The itinerary includes the Taste of Hawaii reception this evening, hosted by Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii.

It’s a 21+ event, which means guests can enjoy mai tais from Koloa Rum, beer from Maui Brewing Company, and food from the 69 different companies showcased. If you received tickets beforehand, you can get in an hour early. General admission opens at 6 p.m. in Russell’s Kennedy Caucus Room.