KHN Morning Briefing

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Amid Fierce Criticism, McConnell Defends All-Male Panel: ‘Everybody Is At The Table’

Democrats are concerned that there are no women involved in the health law working group because they say the legislation is particularly harmful to women.

The New York Times: Women Hold G.O.P. Senate Seats, But Little Influence
The Senate passed a significant milestone this year: 21 of its members are now women, the highest number in American history. But as the recent wrangling over the American health care system in Congress shows, there isn’t always power in numbers. After the House passed a health care bill that gave states the option to drop pregnancy and maternity care from required insurance coverage, Republican leaders in the Senate seemed poised to answer criticism from women. Instead they courted more, naming a 13-member, all-Republican working group on health care legislation, without a single woman on it — forcing Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader who approved the panel, on the defensive on Tuesday. (Steinhauer, 5/9)

Reuters: Senators On Defensive Over All-Male Healthcare Panel
After a meeting of the Senate healthcare group, lawmakers were bombarded with questions as to why no women were named to the 13-man panel. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to explain. "The working group that counts is all 52 of us," McConnell told reporters, referring to all 52 Republican senators in the 100-member chamber. "Nobody is being excluded based upon gender ... Everybody's at the table. Everybody." Democrats pounced. Republican men are negotiating "a secret healthcare plan, which I really hope is not happening in the men's locker room," said Senator Patty Murray, a member of the Democratic leadership from Washington state. (5/9)

The Wall Street Journal: Pressed On All-Male Health Bill Group, McConnell Says All GOP Senators Have Input
The Senate working group met on Tuesday and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R., W. Va.) attended to participate in a discussion on Medicaid, but she is not joining the group on a permanent basis, a spokeswoman said. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said “[I] sure hope so” when asked if a woman would be added to the health-care working group. “I just want to make sure we have some women on,” she added. Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine) spoke for about 15 minutes in the Senate GOP lunch on Tuesday on the health-care proposals and said she planned to continue to participate in the debate.“I’m going to keep speaking up regardless,” Ms. Collins said. “We know how to make our voices heard.” (Peterson, 5/9)

Politico: Senate GOP On Defensive Over All-Male Health Care Group
Republicans can afford to lose only two of their own members on any Obamacare repeal bill, which they plan to pass using powerful budget reconciliation procedures that can circumvent Democratic filibusters. “It’s just foolish to think that we’re excluding somebody,” Cornyn said. (Schor and Everett, 5/9)

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