GOP governors could help bring down Senate health bill – Nathaniel Weixel 06/28/17 06:00 AM EDT

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GOP governors opposed to the Senate healthcare bill’s changes to Medicaid are exerting influence on their home-state senators, making it more difficult for Republican leaders to net the 50 votes they need to pass the legislation.

The GOP governors could give cover to senators who oppose the bill, but they could also make it more difficult for a Republican senator to stake out a dissenting position.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) announced his opposition to the Senate bill at a press conference where he stood side by side with Gov. Brian Sandoval (R), highlighting the issue.

Sandoval has been protective of his state’s Medicaid expansion, and Heller — seen as the most vulnerable senator up for reelection next year — raised doubts about whether he could support any phase-out of federal funds for Medicaid expansion.

“It’s going to be very difficult to get me to a yes,” Heller said. “You have to protect Medicaid expansion states. That’s what I want.”

The mounting criticism from GOP governors may be enough to convince some Republicans to kill the Senate’s ObamaCare repeal legislation. So far, nine GOP senators oppose the bill, which leaves Republicans with a steep climb to get the measure through the Senate.

With a slim 52-48 majority in the upper chamber, GOP leaders can only afford to lose two votes, assuming Vice President Pence breaks a tie.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) have also been weighing in, urging their senators to change or oppose provisions of the legislation that could cost their states millions of dollars.

Kasich has been the most vocal Republican governor opposed to the Senate’s bill. He’s ripped the Medicaid cuts and urged Democrats and Republicans to work on a better, bipartisan solution.

Kasich ratcheted up his criticisms on Tuesday during a joint press conference with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D). He didn’t want to talk about how Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R) might vote, but said Portman understands his objections to the Senate plan.

“I’ve talked to Rob a million times; he knows exactly what my concerns are,” Kasich said, adding that he’s warned Portman against being swayed by minor concessions from leaders.

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