RI Democrats unite against GOP health bill as Senate delays vote

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — All four members of Rhode Island’s Democratic congressional delegation reinforced their opposition to the Senate Republican health care bill Monday morning, while the state’s Republican Party chairman has still not taken a stance on the plan.

After Senate Republicans delayed voting on the latest bill, the four Democrats in Rhode Island’s delegation met doctors, nurses and advocates for seniors at the Allen Berry Health Center to discuss the effects of what they call “Trumpcare.”

“It will cut Medicaid about 35% over the next several years,” Sen. Jack Reed said. “They are moving away from the Medicaid program as it exists today to essentially a block grant, so the states will have to make up the difference.”

“We could do a really good health care bill, and instead Republicans are forcing a really bad one,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said.

Both Reed and Whitehouse sent their best wishes to Sen. John McCain, whose hospitalization delayed the vote in the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can only lose two Republicans in order to get the necessary 50 votes to pass, with Vice President Mike Pence serving as the tie-breaking “yes” vote.

Pence spoke in favor of the GOP health care plan at the National Governors Association meeting in Providence last Friday.

“President Trump and I believe the Senate health care bill strengthens and secures Medicaid for the neediest in our society, and this bill puts this vital American program on a path to long term sustainability,” Pence said.

“He hasn’t read the plan, obviously,” Sen. Reed retorted Monday.

While the congressional delegation and Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo have been steadfast in their opposition to the plan, some Rhode Island Republicans have been noncommittal. GOP Chairman Brandon Bell said Monday he does not yet have a comment on the health care bill but hopes Sen. McCain is recovering well from surgery.

Republican Joe Trillo, a former state representative mounting a possible run for governor, told Eyewitness News Monday he supports the plan despite some flaws because “Obamacare is failing and falling apart.”

Trillo was also the honorary chairman for the Donald Trump campaign during the 2016 election.

“Don’t believe what the Democrats are telling you,” he said. “Whatever is flawed in it can be tweaked later. We need to pass the bill now.”

House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan, a West Warwick Republican also considering a run for governor, said she needs more information before taking a position on the health care bill.

“My only concern is how does it affect Rhode Island,” she told Eyewitness News. “I don’t know yet.” She said families are paying too much for coverage and she wants a law that would lower premiums.

“I think everybody deserves health care,” Morgan added. “It’s how you provide it, and can you afford it.”

Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, another Republican widely expected to run for governor, has not publicly taken a stance on the Senate version of the health care bill. A spokesperson for Fung did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.