Senators who walked off the floor around 2 a.m. Friday after the stunning defeat of the latest GOP ObamaCare repeal effort face tough questions on how to move forward.
GOP leaders sounded pessimistic notes that the failure would lead to compromise or bipartisan work on healthcare, though some members said they hoped it would spur leaders to start a more formal process of committee work after months on Senate bills being drawn up behind closed doors.
“We’re not adverse to that,” said Sen. John Thune, the No. 3 Republican leader. “I just don’t have high hopes that we’re going to get anything that really solves the problems that we think exist with ObamaCare today.”
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Shortly before 1:30 a.m. Friday, McCain strode to the well of the Senate, and gestured his hand downward to vote “no.” Stunned gasps echoed throughout the chamber.
“I thought it was the right vote,” McCain told reporters as he left the Capitol. “I do my job as a senator.”
It was a shocking — yet fitting — coda for the Senate’s health care battle, starring the veteran senator with a well-polished maverick streak. Within days he went from Obamacare repeal’s savior to its executioner.
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The Senate voted 45-55 Wednesday not to repeal ObamaCare with a two-year delay to replace it, and the only consolation for Republicans is the clarity of seeing who voted to preserve and protect rather than repeal and replace.
Congress had passed and sent to Barack Obama’s desk a similar measure in 2015, with support from every current Senate Republican except Susan Collins of Maine. This time seven voted no, including Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, who aren’t up for re-election until 2022 and 2020, respectively. If you’re going to renege on your political promises, better to do it early, we suppose.
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Obamacare gave the federal government a heretofore unprecedented power: the power to force us to buy health insurance irrespective of our desire to do so. Republicans, for both moral and economic reasons, oppose this mandate. The framers of the Constitution never envisioned granting Congress the power to force people to buy a privately delivered financial service. There are also important economic reasons to oppose Obamacare’s mandate. Gross premiums for individually purchased coverage have doubled over the past four years under Obamacare. But the authors of Obamacare don’t need to care about whether they’ve made coverage costlier, because they’re forcing you to buy it anyway. Without a mandate, insurers would have to do what businesses have to do in every other sector of the economy: design products that you voluntarily want to buy because they represent a good value for you. Under Obamacare, they don’t have to.
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Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did the seemingly impossible and got the votes he needed to proceed to consideration of the House-passed plan for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). At this point, it’s hard to tell what exactly will happen in the coming days, but there is one thing that is fairly certain: if the current Republican effort succeeds in passing a bill, the legislation will make the individual insurance market less stable than it is under current law.
The problem for Senate Republicans is that their principal policy goal is incompatible with the process they are using — budget reconciliation — to pass their legislation.
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Louisiana Republican John Kennedy cracked to Politico this week that “the sight of the gallows focuses the mind,” and perhaps that explains why after months of group therapy Senate Republicans finally voted Tuesday to open debate on repealing ObamaCare. Whatever the impetus, the vote kept GOP reform hopes alive and may have saved the GOP Congress.
The 51-50 vote—with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie—was as close as it gets but vindicates Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to force Senators to be accountable. Maine Senator Susan Collins’s defection was expected, and at least she was consistent with her opposition to repeal in 2015.
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The Senate on Wednesday rejected a measure that would have repealed major parts of the Affordable Care Act but would not have provided a replacement, signaling that the “clean repeal” bill that conservatives have embraced cannot get through Congress.
The vote, 45-55, underscored the bind that Republican leaders have found themselves in. Seven Republicans voted against the measure — Senators Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine, Dean Heller of Nevada, John McCain of Arizona, Rob Portman of Ohio, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — showing that repealing the health law without an immediate replacement lacks crucial support among Republicans.
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Portions of the Republican bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare will require 60 votes for passage, the Senate parliamentarian said Tuesday evening. The parliamentarian has advised senators that two provisions could be stripped out, according to a document released Tuesday by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee.
The provisions in question would allow insurers to charge older people premiums up to five times as high as what they charge younger people — which AARP has called an “age tax” — and would allow small businesses to establish “association health plans” that could be sold across state lines. That aspect has been championed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
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Senate Republicans voted to advance to floor debate on their efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Following a week of high-level negotiations among GOP senators, Republican leadership is planning a Tuesday vote on the motion to proceed to the House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA) — the vehicle for their health care reform efforts. The process has been shrouded in confusion and uncertainty, as it still remains unclear what legislation Senate leaders ultimately hope to move forward. And while knowing what’s in the Senate bill may be, as Senate Whip John Cornyn said, a “luxury we don’t have,” it’s worth acknowledging that there’s still a narrow path towards passage.
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