Mike Rounds

Senate Looks Ahead to Tax, Debt Limit Debates After Recess
McConnell predicts reconciliation process for tax overhaul

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell met Tuesday with Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on raising the debt limit. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

By NIELS LESNIEWSKI and JOE WILLIAMS

Tuesday might not be the last time the Senate leaders address reporters before departing for August recess, but their messages were already setting the stage for September.

McConnell Reveals ‘Skinny’ Bill Text as Midnight Vote Looms
At least 50 senators need to vote for repeal measure

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks back to his office Thursday night after introducing the “skinny” bill to repeal the 2010 health care law. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky revealed an eight-page scaled-back repeal of the 2010 health care law Thursday night. The development came as support grew among senators for the so-called skinny repeal as a way to continue the debate on health care legislation.

The amendment to the House-passed health care bill would repeal the 2010 law’s individual mandate and its employer mandate for eight years. It would repeal the law’s medical device tax for three years and increase the amount of money an individual can contribute to a health savings account for three years. It would provide additional funding for community health centers, while defunding Planned Parenthood for one year. Additionally, it would provide states additional flexibility through waivers that would allow states to roll back certain health care law insurance regulations.

Senate Health Care Failure Prompts Republican Soul Searching
Onus falls to Mitch McConnell to unite GOP conference

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, seen here Tuesday with Majority Whip John Cornyn, is facing questions over his strategy used in crafting the health care bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell employed an iron fist over the Republican health care effort, keeping top lieutenants in the dark about key decisions and withholding detailed policy information from the conference as a whole until just before it was released publicly.

Now with the seven-year effort to gut the 2010 health care law in tatters, it falls on the Kentucky Republican to deal with the aftermath, and quell concerns about whether he can continue to lead effectively. 

Insurance Lobby Warns Against Cruz Amendment

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has sponsored an amendment to the GOP health bill that the health insurance industry opposes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Health insurance lobbying groups are raising concerns about a proposed amendment to the Senate health care bill, warning that a proposal from Sen. Ted Cruz would destabilize and fracture the individual insurance market.

The Texas Republican is pushing to allow insurers to sell policies on the federal exchanges that don’t meet the regulations laid out in the 2010 health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152), so long as an insurer offers one plan that does comply with the law. Senate leaders hope to bring the health care bill to the floor next week.

Podcast: Short Recess, Long on Goals
The Big Story, Episode 62

The Senate will stick around Washington a little longer in August, shortening its recess to focus on an ambitious agenda. The list of things to do could include confirming the new FBI director. CQ Roll Call Senior Senate Reporter Niels Lesniewski and Leadership Editor Jason Dick break down what is doable.

Recess Postponed in Senate
Mitch McConnell announces two extra weeks in session

Sens. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, Luther Strange, R-Ala., Steve Daines, R-Mont., John Kennedy, R-La., Mike Rounds, R-S.D., David Perdue, R-Ga., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, conduct a news conference on Tuesday in the Capitol to encourage the Senate to work into the August recess. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senators will need to delay their departures for August recess.

Shortly after eight rank-and-file Republican senators urged postponing the recess to focus on the GOP agenda, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the break would start two weeks later than originally scheduled. 

Senators Skeptical of Leadership Health Care Timeline
Major sticking points remain as members await more information.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., must still navigate diverging positions in his conference over health care. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

With several sticking points remaining, rank-and-file Republican senators and aides are skeptical of Senate GOP leaders’ latest goal of holding a vote on legislation to overhaul the U.S. health insurance system as early as next week.

Adding to the headache for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is an amendment pushed by a pair of conservatives that they say is necessary for their support. While it has some appeal in the conference, others have lingering questions over what impact the provision would have on sicker individuals.

Defending Against a Cyberattack on Democracy
Campaigns and operatives taking prevention into their own hands

A woman with her daughter casts her vote in North Las Vegas, Nevada, on Election Day last fall. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Congressional campaigns rocked by Russian interference in the 2016 elections are trying to make sure that it never happens again.

Campaigns and elections are top targets for future cyberattacks. So campaign committees and campaigns themselves are taking steps to bolster security staff and training.

Senate Health Care Discussions Continue as Agenda Stalls
Numerous revisions to the GOP health bill under consideration

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is seeing his legislative plate pile up, while health care discussions continue. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Republicans, in the aftermath of a major setback Tuesday, are weighing a swath of changes to legislation to overhaul the U.S. health insurance system, as the rest of their agenda piles up and deadlines near. 

The current plan, according to GOP lawmakers, aides and health care lobbyists, is for the conference to try to come to an agreement by Friday on a new draft of the bill to repeal and replace portions of the 2010 health care law. That would give the Congressional Budget Office time to analyze the revisions and let the GOP conference start preparing to vote on the measure when lawmakers return from the July Fourth recess.

The Senate’s Key Health Care Players
Hatch, Alexander sure to play big roles in debate

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, as chairman of the Finance Committee, would have significant influence over the fate of the GOP health care bill in the Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Competing interests among Senate Republicans could significantly complicate efforts to partially repeal and replace the 2010 health care law. But despite the influence individual members will have, two have enhanced sway among their colleagues: Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.

While leadership is expected to have a heavy hand in the process, the two senior lawmakers, as chairmen of the committees of jurisdiction, will be instrumental in driving support for any measure the chamber considers. Jockeying between the two panels over authority, however, could be a detriment to any serious attempts at an overhaul of the U.S. health care system.