SENATE

Durbin says GOP Senate's health care bill really a tax cut for 'wealthiest'

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, on Sunday characterized the GOP-led chamber’s ObamaCare overhaul bill as a tax cut for the wealthy, not health care reform.

“What's driving this is a tax cut that Republicans insisted on of about $700 billion for the wealthiest people in America and the pharmaceutical companies,” Durbin told “Fox News Sunday.”

Durbin also said leaders of the GOP-run Senate had to put the cut in the plan, released last week by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to “make it work for Republicans” and that the GOP “took the money out of Medicaid.”

“That’s why 23 million Americans will be out of insurance,” he continued. “So those in the highest income categories can get a tax break.”

Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, a doctor and one of roughly 13 Republican senators who crafted the bill in closed-door sessions, strongly disagreed with Durbin’s assessment.

“That’s absolutely wrong,” he told “Fox News Sunday” in a debate with Durbin.

Barrasso argued the Senate plan eliminates taxes imposed by ObamaCare for all Americans.

“ObamaCare raised taxes on every American who uses health care,” he said. “They put [taxes] on over-the-counter medicine, prescription medicine, medical devices. …They put taxes on people who buy health insurance.”

The debate underscores the partisan divide in overhauling ObamaCare -- former President Barack Obama’s signature, 2010 health care law that extends health coverage to millions more Americans but has also struggled with rising premium costs and fewer premium options.

No Senate Democrat backs the new GOP plan. So McConnell will need support from at least 50 of his 52 senators to pass the bill.

Barrasso also disagreed with the argument by Durbin and other Democrats that the GOP is trying to dismantle Medicaid to use the money for tax breaks.

Republicans have long argued the continued growth of the entitlement program is a growing strain on the federal budget. And Senate Republicans say their plan attempts only to slow the growth of Medicaid, not de-fund it.

“Only in Washington is giving more each year considered a cut,” said Barrasso, who also said the new health care plan will provide subsidies for insurance for those who don’t qualify for Medicaid.

“Senator Durbin doesn’t want to talk about the fact that in Illinois they are way down on the number of people even selling insurance and prices are way up,” he also said.