Health care: Marco Rubio wants Florida input; Bill Nelson slams GOP bill

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, left, and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio will decide whether to support a Republican health care bill “on the basis of how it impacts Florida,” his office said this afternoon.

Rubio’s office characterized the just-unveiled legislation as a work in progress as four other Senate Republicans  — Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — issued a joint statement saying they are “not ready to vote for this bill, but we are open to negotiation and obtaining more information before it is brought to the floor.”

Overturning former President Barack Obama‘s signature health care law was a top campaign pledge of President Donald Trump and much of the GOP. The House has passed a version that Trump initially celebrated but later reportedly called “mean.”

Republicans hold a 52-seat majority in the Senate, so more than two GOP defections will doom the bill if Democrats are united against it.

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who’s up for re-election next year, blasted the GOP legislation and the way it was drafted.

“Now we know why they tried to keep this secret,” Nelson said in a statement released by his office. “This bill is just as bad as the House bill, taking coverage away from millions of people and making huge cuts to Medicaid. If that weren’t enough, it also allows insurance companies to hike rates for older Americans. Fixing our nation’s health care system shouldn’t be a partisan issue. We should be working together, not plotting behind closed doors to make it worse.”

Rubio has already spoken with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, and invited their staffs to Washington “to help us formulate changes and amendments to this proposal,” said a statement released by Rubio’s office. Rubio also wants to hear from health care providers, insurers and patient advocates, his office said.

Here’s the full statement from Rubio’s office:

“Senator Rubio will decide how to vote on health care on the basis of how it impacts Florida. He has already spoken to Governor Scott, Senate President Negron and Speaker Corcoran about the first draft of this proposal. He has instructed his staff to share with state leaders the first draft and has asked them to run numbers and provide input on how this initial proposal would impact Florida’s Medicaid program and individual insurance marketplace. He has invited them to send staff to Washington next week to help us formulate changes and amendments to this proposal. He will continue to reach out for input and suggested changes from Florida providers, insurers and patient advocate groups.”

Five Takeaways from the Republican Presidential Debate

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Moderators Mellowed

After the last debate, featuring combative back and forths between candidates and CNBC moderators, the Fox Business News trio of questioners were downright low-key.

Neil Cavuto opened the contest with an embracing setup, saying the eight Republicans on stage would be asked, “How each of you plans to make America better tomorrow.”

The Fox team stayed mostly friendly from there. No questions about Rubio’s credit card spending; a gentle poking at Ben Carson and his autobiography stumbles. Cavuto ended debate saying, “It wasn’t about us.”

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Less is more

With only eight Republican contenders on the stage, the elbowing and kneeing between the candidates also seemed reduced.

The moderators easily kept the contenders from trying to talk over each other.

Instead, each candidate had more time to answer: Ted Cruz going on about the flat tax; Carly Fiorina touting her demand for a three-page tax code; and Rand Paul with his vision of a government so small you almost can’t see it. Donald Trump was downsized, except for a couple shots at John Kasich and pushing back Jeb Bush with a “Wait, Wait a minute.”

Is Jeb still wobbling?

After lousy debate performances — with the CNBC exchange his worst to date — Jeb was teetering like a ten-pin. But he steadied tonight. Sort of.

He answered questions with force and, yes, energy. He made a strong partisan pitch for repealing power plant and water quality rules enacted under President Obama, saying it was central to “jump-starting” the economy. And he stuck his neck out by attacking Trump on his demand for a wall at the Mexican border.

Bush’s attack on Marco Rubio in the last debate backfired horribly. But this time, Bush may have won points by going at Trump. He said every time the Clinton campaign hears wall talk, they’re “doing high fives.” He made a case the party needs to present “practical plans” and tried to cast himself as the candidate who can do that and win next November.

Rubio: Still on a roll?

Rubio sprinted out of the last, CNBC debate as an emerging favorite of the Republican establishment and more. He likely solidified that tonight with his trademark, articulate defense of conservative policies.

The son of an immigrant bartender defended his opposition to a minimum wage hike, saying it would cost jobs, replacing people with less-costly machines. And he was able to block-and-parry with Rand Paul when he came at him and dismissed his family leave tax credit plan as a $1 trillion welfare program.

Rubio also attempted to bolster his conservative cred by touting a military build-up to face ISIL. The fresh-faced senator also got some extended airplay, relying heavily on lines familiar from his stump speeches and portraying the next election as a “generational choice” for voters.

Maybe best of all for Rubio, there were no questions about his Senate absentees or free spending with a Republican credit card.

Carson: Off Code Blue, for now

The neurosurgeon has been battling media challenges to his autobiography. But he was able to staunch the political bleeding at least for tonight – getting only a soft question about whether he felt his campaign had been hurt.

After saying he doesn’t like being “lied about,” and explaining away claims of a West Point scholarship as being “misinterpreted,” the topic was dropped. Carson was able to soldier on in a debate whose low-key style matched his persona.

He made some points about his tax-cutting plan as reducing the number of poor people in America. But while Carson didn’t light the room on fire, neither did his fellow frontrunner, Trump. With Trump having an uncharacteristically subdued night, the debate may not provide much more spacing between these two.