White House pitches health bill to skeptical US governors

Vice President Mike Pence
Vice President Mike Pence waves goodbye as he wraps up an address to a NGA session titled "Collaborating to Create Tomorrow's Global Economy" at the second day of the National Governors Association meeting Friday, July 14, 2017, in Providence, R.I. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The Trump administration is struggling to get support from skeptical U.S. governors for a revised health care bill before the U.S. Senate.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma made their pitch Saturday morning during a closed-door meeting of the bipartisan National Governors Association. Vice President Mike Pence also met several of the governors privately after his public address at the Rhode Island conference on Friday.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, one of the bill’s most prominent Republican skeptics, said Saturday it’s unlikely they changed anyone’s mind.

“I am struggling to validate the numbers that are being presented to me by the administration, versus what I’m hearing from independent (experts), what I’ll likely hear from the (Congressional Budget Office), what I’m hearing from back home,” Sandoval said after the governors-only meeting.

Sandoval has expressed concerns about the legislation’s cuts to the Medicaid program for the poor and disabled. His position is important because of the pressure he could place on Nevada’s Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, a possible swing vote.

There are already two GOP senators opposed to the legislation, so one more “no” vote would kill the bill outright in a Senate divided 52-48 between Republicans and Democrats.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, said the mood at the Saturday breakfast meeting was “tense” and “there are a lot of Republican governors who apparently have a neck problem, because they were all looking down.”

Malloy added that a few Republican governors did ask questions. Others said they raised their concerns to the White House in one-on-one meetings.

Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker said he had an “extensive meeting” Friday with Pence and Price and “we’re hopeful they’re going to get to a point where they’re going to have a repeal-and-replace that works,” but Walker declined to say if he supports the current version.

“I haven’t read through it all yet so I’ve still got to look at it,” Walker said. “It just came out yesterday.”