The Senate rejected a proposal Wednesday that would have repealed major parts of the Affordable Care Act and provided a two-year delay for lawmakers to develop a substitute, indicating that in the immediate future Republicans can only muster a majority for modest changes to the current law.In two separate votes over the course of less than 24 hours, lawmakers have rejected different approaches to rewriting the landmark 2010 law known as Obamacare.
Today's measure, the "Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act," commonly known as "repeal and delay," needed 50 votes, but ended up with 45. In all, seven Senate Republicans -- Collins, Heller, Murkowski, Alexander, Capito, McCain, and Portman -- broke ranks and opposed the legislation, which garnered 55 "no" votes.
And as a matter of public policy and public health, that's an encouraging development. This bill, which passed the Senate in 2015 when Republicans knew their vote was largely for show, would have repealed the Affordable Care Act in the short term, and then set a two-year deadline for Congress to figure something out. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office recently found that this bill would push 32 million Americans into the ranks of the uninsured over the next decade, include 17 million Americans just within the next year.
In fact, before we move on, let's pause to note how amazing these circumstances are. We're talking about a bill that would take coverage from 32 million people, repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with nothing, and 45 Republican senators voluntarily said, "Yep, that sounds good to me."
They knew it wouldn't pass, but these GOP senators wanted to be on record voting in support of this dangerous, regressive, and unpopular legislation anyway. Indeed, in a bit of a surprise, today's bill received two more Republican votes than yesterday's bill -- which was itself depraved.
Nevertheless, we've now discovered that there aren't 50 votes to "repeal and delay" or for "repeal and replace."
The Senate is now moving toward the "vote-a-rama" phase in the process, in which senators consider a lengthy series of amendments. That's expected to begin in earnest tomorrow.
In the meantime, GOP leaders continue to work on a final Republican bill -- the sort of thing senators traditionally do before the process begins, not during the process itself -- that McConnell & Co. hope can get 50 votes.
If all goes according to plan, and I use the word "plan" loosely, that vote should happen by the end of the week.