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Portman states he won’t back health bill

About 100 rally in Toledo

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    Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio), center, said he will not vote for the health care bill in its current form.

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    Portman

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    U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio)

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U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) said Tuesday he would not support the Obamacare repeal bill as written — moments after Senate Republican leaders said they planned to delay a vote on the bill until after the July 4 recess.

Mr. Portman had expressed concern that the measure’s cuts and changes to Medicaid could negatively affect Ohio’s ability to fight the opioid epidemic. On Tuesday, he joined a growing list of Republican lawmakers who formally oppose the bill.

RELATED: Kasich among governors to speak out | Senate Republicans delay vote

“For months, I have engaged with my colleagues on solutions that I believe are necessary to ensure that we improve our health care system and better combat this opioid epidemic,” he said. “Unfortunately, the Senate draft falls short and therefore I cannot support it in its current form.”

Mr. Portman’s announcement came in a joint statement with U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.Va.), who had also criticized the bill for not adequately addressing the opioid crisis. A third senator, Jerry Moran (R., Kansas), also said Tuesday he would not vote for the bill in its current form.

The three defections brought the number of Republican senators opposing the bill to nine as of Tuesday. With the Senate’s 48 Democrats and independents united in opposition, Senate Republicans can afford to lose just two votes if they hope to pass the measure.

Mr. Portman has said he’s committed to replacing former President Barack Obama’s hallmark health care legislation.

“The Affordable Care Act is not working for many Ohio families and small businesses,” he said. “I am committed to creating a better health care system that lowers the cost of coverage, provides access to quality care, and protects the most vulnerable in our society.”

Just hours after Senate Republican leadership delayed the vote and Mr. Portman announced his opposition, about 100 people gathered at Levis Square in downtown Toledo to protest efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Organizers of the demonstration included the AFL-CIO, Our Revolution in Northwest Ohio, and the Ohio Alliance for Retired Americans.

Originally, the protest’s goal was to persuade Mr. Portman to oppose the bill, said George Tucker, executive secretary of the Greater Northwest Ohio AFL-CIO.

But the event turned more festive in light of the afternoon’s developments in Washington.

“This should be a celebration because just a few hours ago Mitch McConnell pulled that bill for after the Fourth of July,” said Dennis Slotnick, chair of Our Revolution in Northwest Ohio. “He didn’t want to spoil people’s holiday.”

Still, rally organizers and participants said they know the health care battle isn’t over.

Protester Melissa Kritzell, a survivor of ovarian cancer, said she fears her preexisting condition could lead to her losing health insurance if the Republican plan becomes law. She said she was happy to see Mr. Portman oppose the bill in its current form, but remains wary of a possible reversal.

“I was happy, but I’ll believe it when he votes ‘no,’ ” Mrs. Kritzell said.

Staff writer Tom Troy contributed to this report.

Contact Jacob Stern at: jstern@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.

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