If this is what passes for a legislative victory in the Trump administration, the president may be in trouble.
Less than a day after the Senate GOP leadership mustered the minimum number of Republican votes necessary to begin debate on a bill to repeal Obamacare (and even then thanks only to a tiebreaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence), the Republican campaign to kill the legislation remains in chaos.
Just six hours after the successful vote to proceed, the Senate overwhelmingly rejected a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, voting 43-57 against with 9 Republicans joining Democrats in the process. That plan requires 60 votes to pass because of its impact on the budget deficit, and without support from Democrats, that bill has a 0% chance of survival. The failed vote has dashed Republican hopes of replacing Obamacare with another plan.
Although Trump celebrated the motion to proceed at a rally in Youngstown, where he proclaimed that the US is now "one step closer to liberating our citizens from this Obamacare nightmare", the president’s hopeful remarks ignore that Senate Republicans are still in chaos, especially after John McCain's fiesty speech in the Senate on Tuesday. As Reuters and a handful of other media outlets have reported, despite the success of the vote, the Senate GOP doesn't have enough support to pass any of its plans to repeal, or repeal and replace, Obamacare, as many moderates remain wary of cuts to Medicaid in the GOP plan that could curtail coverage for millions of poor Americans, as Reuters explains.
“The outcome was a huge relief for President Donald Trump, who had pushed his fellow Republicans hard in recent days to live up to the party's campaign promises to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Minutes after the vote, Trump called it "a big step."
But the narrow victory on a simple procedural matter raised questions about whether Republicans can muster the votes necessary to pass any of the various approaches to repeal.
Moderates are worried repeal will cost millions of low-income Americans their insurance and conservatives are angry the proposed bills do not go far enough to gut Obamacare, which they consider government overreach.”
Conservatives continue to oppose the GOP Obamacare alternative, despite the leadership’s attempt to woo them by adding an amendment that would allow insurers to offer lower-cost plans.
“Nine Republicans, ranging from moderates such as Susan Collins of Maine to conservatives such as Rand Paul of Kentucky, voted against the bill, which would have made deep cuts to Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor, and reduced Obamacare subsidies to lower-income people to help them defray the cost of health insurance."
Regardless of which Republican plan makes it out of the Senate - and it's likely none of them will, at least not any time soon - the Senate and House would then need to draft a compromise bill, which would require another round of votes in each chamber. As we explained yesterday, the only Republican option that has some hope of passing is the leadership’s “skinny” repeal plan, which hasn’t been brought to vote yet.
If passed, the bill would eliminate only the most controversial elements of Obamacare: the individual and employer mandates, and the medical device tax. We’ll likely know more about the skinny budget soon, as Republicans are expected to hold many more votes in the coming days.