Because of persistent division among Senate Republicans, efforts to bring the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148) repeal and replacement bill drafts to the floor for a vote have failed, GOP leadership announced on July 18. As the day progressed following the announcement, it seemed leadership’s initial plan to now move forward with a repeal-only vote on the ACA could likely expect failure, too.
“I regret that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failures of Obamacare will not be successful,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor on July 18. “In the coming days, the Senate will take up and vote on a repeal of Obamacare combined with a stable, two-year transition period as we work toward patient-centered health care,” he added.
McConnell’s announcement to move forward instead with a repeal-only, however, immediately began receiving pushback from Democrats and Republicans alike. The reason the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) failed to move forward procedurally was attributed to the fact that it was unable to muster at least 50 Republican votes in the Senate, as mandated under reconciliation rules, which would then require Vice President Pence to serve as the tie breaker. At press time on July 18, it looked as though the repeal-only effort was headed down the same road.
Three Senate Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins, R-Me., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alas., on July 18 each announced their intent to vote no on a Motion to Proceed vote on the repeal-only measure. Murkowski and Capito voted for a similar repeal-only measure in 2015, which passed the Senate by a 52-to-47 vote, with Collins as the only remaining senator to vote no.
“I do not think that it’s constructive to repeal a law that is so interwoven with our health care system without having a replacement plan in place,” Collins said in a July 18 statement. Similarly, Murkowski released a statement on July 18 that said repealing the ACA without a clear path forward would only create confusion. “The Senate should take a step back and engage in a bipartisan process to address the failures of the ACA and stabilize the individual markets,” she said.
Senate Democrats also continued their call for Republicans to approach health care reform on a bipartisan basis if their GOP colleagues take repeal off the table. “It’s time to move on. It’s time to start over,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor on July 18. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said in a July 18 tweet, “If Republicans truly want to improve health care and expand coverage, they will find eager partners across the aisle.”
Meanwhile, President Trump is now suggesting that Congress walk away from the health care reform efforts, after previously suggesting a repeal-only strategy the day before. “As I have always said, let Obamacare fail and then come together and do a great heath care plan,” he said in a tweet on the morning of July 18. On July 17, however, he said that Republicans should just repeal the ACA and work on a new health care plan that would allow Democrats to join in.
In a press briefing later that afternoon, Trump told reporters he believed Republicans were in the position to let the current law collapse instead of trying to repeal and replace it now. “I think we’re probably in that position where we’ll just let Obamacare fail. We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it, I can tell you,” Trump said.
By Jessica Jeane, Wolters Kluwer News Staff