RIP: Senate Obamacare reform bill

The Senate bill that would have repealed and replaced Obamacare will not make it to the floor for a vote.  Last night, two more senators – Jerry Moran* and Mike Lee – announced their opposition to the legislation, meaning that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will not be able to corral the necessary 50 Republican votes for passage.

The Hill:

In light of Monday's challenges, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the Senate will try to separate ObamaCare repeal and replacement, closing the door on the chamber's current healthcare legislation.  

"In the coming days, the Senate will vote to take up the House bill with the first amendment in order being what a majority of the Senate has already supported in 2015 and that was vetoed by then-President Obama: a repeal of Obamacare with a two-year delay to provide for a stable transition period," McConnell said in a statement. 

The move means Senate Republicans will try to repeal and replace ObamaCare separately, reverting to a plan Senate GOP leadership initially proposed earlier this year, but had to abandon due to lack of support. 

In announcing their opposition to the Senate draft, Moran and Lee both said the bill failed to do enough to lower premiums.

"This closed-door process has yielded the [bill], which fails to repeal the Affordable Care Act or address healthcare's rising costs. For the same reasons I could not support the previous version of this bill, I cannot support this one," Moran said in a statement. 

He added that the Senate "must now start fresh with an open legislative process," an indication that relatively minor changes to the current bill would not be enough to win his support. It may also indicate he wants hearings on a bill, which were absent from the process on the current measure. 

Highlighting the challenges faced by McConnell, Lee argued the measure is not conservative enough, tugging in the opposite direction from moderates.

"In addition to not repealing all of the Obamacare taxes, it doesn't go far enough in lowering premiums for middle class families; nor does it create enough free space from the most costly Obamacare regulations," the Utah Republican said in a statement.

Lee added on Twitter that he and Moran would not support proceeding to "this version" of the Senate GOP legislation, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act, leaving the door open to additional changes.

(*Senator Moran is no relation to the author.)

McConnell is caught between a rock and a hard place.  The more conservative he tries to make the legislation, the more moderates he alienates.  And if he tries to please the moderates, conservatives balk.  His margin for error is so slim – just three GOP senators in opposition kills any effort to repeal and replace Obamacare – and with absolutely no support from any Democratic senator, it's hard to see how any version of a repeal-replace bill will ever be acceptable to almost all Republicans.

What about a vote on straight repeal?  Conservatives are demanding one, and McConnell may very well accede to their wishes.  Here's where he has moderates over a barrel, as all but two GOP senators voted to repeal the legislation in 2015, and one of those senators who voted "no" – Mark Kirk of Illinois – is no longer in the Senate.  It's hard to see how any Republican senator could have voted for repeal in 2015 and fail to vote that way this time around.

The problem for President Trump is that it sets back consideration of other agenda items, including serious tax reform.  Congress is likely to go on its summer vacation later this week, and when the legislators get back after Labor Day, they will have to immediately address the debt ceiling.  That debate is likely to be even more contentious than the debate over Obamacare. 

The media will hail the death of Trump's agenda, but that's ridiculously premature and wishful thinking.  The GOP is not interested in emasculating its president and party leader by blowing up his agenda.  When Republicans return, there will probably be another attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare (probably crafted with a lot of help from the White House) and perhaps even a deal to raise the debt limit.  Bottom line: Trump and the Republicans are not going to be sitting still, and despite the attempt to kill the president's agenda, it will go forward.

The Senate bill that would have repealed and replaced Obamacare will not make it to the floor for a vote.  Last night, two more senators – Jerry Moran* and Mike Lee – announced their opposition to the legislation, meaning that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will not be able to corral the necessary 50 Republican votes for passage.

The Hill:

In light of Monday's challenges, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the Senate will try to separate ObamaCare repeal and replacement, closing the door on the chamber's current healthcare legislation.  

"In the coming days, the Senate will vote to take up the House bill with the first amendment in order being what a majority of the Senate has already supported in 2015 and that was vetoed by then-President Obama: a repeal of Obamacare with a two-year delay to provide for a stable transition period," McConnell said in a statement. 

The move means Senate Republicans will try to repeal and replace ObamaCare separately, reverting to a plan Senate GOP leadership initially proposed earlier this year, but had to abandon due to lack of support. 

In announcing their opposition to the Senate draft, Moran and Lee both said the bill failed to do enough to lower premiums.

"This closed-door process has yielded the [bill], which fails to repeal the Affordable Care Act or address healthcare's rising costs. For the same reasons I could not support the previous version of this bill, I cannot support this one," Moran said in a statement. 

He added that the Senate "must now start fresh with an open legislative process," an indication that relatively minor changes to the current bill would not be enough to win his support. It may also indicate he wants hearings on a bill, which were absent from the process on the current measure. 

Highlighting the challenges faced by McConnell, Lee argued the measure is not conservative enough, tugging in the opposite direction from moderates.

"In addition to not repealing all of the Obamacare taxes, it doesn't go far enough in lowering premiums for middle class families; nor does it create enough free space from the most costly Obamacare regulations," the Utah Republican said in a statement.

Lee added on Twitter that he and Moran would not support proceeding to "this version" of the Senate GOP legislation, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act, leaving the door open to additional changes.

(*Senator Moran is no relation to the author.)

McConnell is caught between a rock and a hard place.  The more conservative he tries to make the legislation, the more moderates he alienates.  And if he tries to please the moderates, conservatives balk.  His margin for error is so slim – just three GOP senators in opposition kills any effort to repeal and replace Obamacare – and with absolutely no support from any Democratic senator, it's hard to see how any version of a repeal-replace bill will ever be acceptable to almost all Republicans.

What about a vote on straight repeal?  Conservatives are demanding one, and McConnell may very well accede to their wishes.  Here's where he has moderates over a barrel, as all but two GOP senators voted to repeal the legislation in 2015, and one of those senators who voted "no" – Mark Kirk of Illinois – is no longer in the Senate.  It's hard to see how any Republican senator could have voted for repeal in 2015 and fail to vote that way this time around.

The problem for President Trump is that it sets back consideration of other agenda items, including serious tax reform.  Congress is likely to go on its summer vacation later this week, and when the legislators get back after Labor Day, they will have to immediately address the debt ceiling.  That debate is likely to be even more contentious than the debate over Obamacare. 

The media will hail the death of Trump's agenda, but that's ridiculously premature and wishful thinking.  The GOP is not interested in emasculating its president and party leader by blowing up his agenda.  When Republicans return, there will probably be another attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare (probably crafted with a lot of help from the White House) and perhaps even a deal to raise the debt limit.  Bottom line: Trump and the Republicans are not going to be sitting still, and despite the attempt to kill the president's agenda, it will go forward.

RECENT VIDEOS