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03:09 - Source: CNN

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Senate health care bill is expected to be released Thursday afternoon

Chairman of Senate Republican policy committee: "It's a completely open amendment process"

Washington CNN  — 

The chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee said Wednesday that Republicans are fine-tuning the specifics of the Senate health care bill, one week before a vote is scheduled on the legislation.

“We’re still putting the final touches on it,” Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday afternoon.

Barrasso added that the Senate is “writing our own bill,” distancing it from the House version that President Donald Trump called “mean” last week.

Although GOP lawmakers have faced criticism for debating the health care bill behind closed doors, Barrasso argued that there will be “plenty of opportunity” for public discussion of the bill, citing an “open amendment” process on the Senate floor.

“The American people are going to be able to watch it all on C-SPAN, and that opportunity is coming,” Barrasso said.

President Donald Trump gestures as he walks with his daughter Ivanka Trump across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 13, 2017, before boarding Marine One helicopter for a quick trip to nearby Andrews Air Force Base. They are traveling to Milwaukee, Wis., to meet with people dealing with health care.

While a draft of the bill is expected to be released Thursday, Senate Republicans have yet to disclose concrete details about the bill’s exact terms, including whether funding will be awarded to Planned Parenthood, a women’s health organization that, in addition to other programs, provides abortion services.

“We want to follow the House model there, that federal money should not be used to pay for abortions, period,” Barrasso told CNN. Currently, the so-called Hyde Amendment, which is regularly attached to annual funding bills, already prohibits federal agencies from using funds for abortion services.

When pressed by Blitzer about whether he would support a bill even that included funding for Planned Parenthood if it would help the measure get a majority of votes, Barrasso dodged the question.

“What we have with Obamacare has failed the American people,” the Wyoming senator replied. He later added: “We need to provide relief for the American people in terms of the health care and the care that they need so they can get it from a doctor they choose at lower cost. That’s my fundamental drive.”

Barrasso’s comments come as Senate Republican leaders are preparing to release a draft of their bill Thursday with the goal of a possible Senate vote before the July 4 recess. With a 52-48 majority in the Senate, Republicans can only afford to lose two votes in order to pass the bill, which would repeal and replace Obamacare. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has faced backlash for the perceived lack of transparency behind the health care bill negotiations, but insisted that there will be “plenty of time” for discussion.