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Toomey calls GOP health plan a good start; Casey calls it a 'disaster'

| Thursday, June 22, 2017, 6:39 p.m.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who received $400,000 in campaign contributions from the Club For Growth in 2016, lauded Donald Trump at a group event for proposing cuts to non-defense spending.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
U.S. Senator Bob Casey speaks at a press conference on the Gateway Clipper on Monday, June 12, 2017.

Pennsylvania's two U.S. senators had widely different takes on the GOP plan unveiled Thursday to dismantle much of the Affordable Care Act.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh County, played a role in crafting the plan.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, spent much of the day criticizing it.

"This health care scheme sells out the middle class, hurts seniors and children and devastates individuals with disabilities to finance tax breaks for the very rich," Casey said in a statement issued just before noon.

By then, Casey had already posted about a dozen tweets to his government Twitter account. About half of the tweets showed excerpts of the proposal circled in red pen with accompanying criticism. By 6:30 p.m., he had posted more than 40 tweets about the health care plan throughout the day.

In a conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon, Toomey called the draft proposal a "constructive step in the right direction" and said he is "likely to support" it, but he stopped short of giving it his blessing.

"There are a few pieces that are likely to change before we get to a vote," Toomey said.

When asked for specifics, Toomey said he was "still in the process of analyzing the text."

Toomey was part of the 13-member "working group" reportedly created to craft the plan, but he insisted Thursday that wasn't the case.

"The nature of our involvement was discussing and debating and vetting various proposals," Toomey said, noting that a team of staffers was always on hand during group meetings "taking that consensus and actually translating" what was discussed into legislation.

Toomey added: "It was only this morning that we saw the first actual legislative language."

By early Thursday evening, people began gathering outside Toomey's office in Downtown Pittsburgh to begin a 24-hour vigil to protest efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. A spokeswoman said the group included health care advocates, nurses and religious organizations such Bend the Arc Jewish Action. The group is scheduled to hold a news conference Friday morning.

Tom Fontaine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7847, tfontaine@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @FontainePGH.

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