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Minnesota lawmakers denounce GOP health bill, seek bipartisan answer

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, accompanied by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (right) and Sen. Martin Heinrich, speaks with the media on July 18, 2017, about the congressional health care debate. Aaron P. Bernstein / Reuters

WASHINGTON — Minnesota's two U.S. senators voted with all other Democrats against the Senate debating a federal health care law rewrite Tuesday, July 25, pleading to allow the two parties to work together, and a former Republican senator agreed with them.

"We can still stop this," Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., declared shortly after the vote. "We can still put aside partisanship and instead work together on bipartisan solutions, like lowering the cost of prescription drugs and strengthening the exchanges."

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., Tuesday morning called for Democrats and Republicans to work together, but was tough on the GOP after the vote.

"Let's be very clear about what just happened: In defiance of a majority of Americans, Senate Republicans have set in motion a dangerous and destructive process that could result in millions of people losing their insurance coverage, the destruction of Medicaid as we know it, and the elimination of nationwide protections for people with pre-existing conditions," Franken said.

The Senate approved debating the health bill Republicans wrote in secret 51-50 after Vice President Mike Pence cast a tie-breaking vote.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona returned to the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon, battling cancer, and said the bill does not have his vote.

McCain, a Republican and former presidential candidate, said he is troubled that Republicans and Democrats no longer work together on major bills. His comments came hours after Klobuchar tweeted, "Last night I spoke on Senate floor about why we can't take healthcare from millions. Should work on bipartisan solutions instead."

Before Tuesday's vote, USA Today printed an opinion piece by former Republican U.S.Sen. David Durenberger of Minnesota, who said that to pass a bill: "You ask questions. You hold hearings. You understand what it would mean to your constituents."

U.S. Rep.Betty McCollum, D-Minn., has been an outspoken critic of the GOP health plan.

"If this bill passes, millions of Americans will lose coverage, premiums will skyrocket and people with pre-existing conditions will be priced out of health care," she said, urging Minnesotans to make their voices heard.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.