With GOP efforts in Congress on hold to overhaul the Obama health law, Republican leaders threatened to force wayward GOP Senators to go on the record and publicly record their vote in opposition to plans to repeal chunks of the Obama health law, but such a health care showdown on the Senate floor was put off until at least early next week.
“As of today, we just simply do not have 50 senators that can agree on what ought to replace the existing law,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been unable to solve what he called the ‘Rubik’s Cube’ inside the GOP on health care.
“I was hopeful that we would be moving to a vote this week,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA). “But obviously, that’s not going to happen.”
Here’s the latest on where health care overhaul stands on Capitol Hill:
1. The inaction on health care is all on Republicans. There was no Senate filibuster involved as Republicans watched their effort to overhaul the Obama health law implode on Tuesday. The GOP has the majority in the House – they could barely pass their health care bill there. The GOP has the majority in the Senate – and hasn’t been able to pass anything. 60 votes were not needed in the Senate on this, as Democrats watched from the sidelines, while the GOP couldn’t get 50 votes, plus the tie breaking tally of the Vice President. The failure leaves the GOP unable to follow through on their biggest campaign pledge of the past seven years. The White House and the President tried to blame it on Democrats – but Republicans are the ones in charge at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
2. Republicans still haven’t united behind one plan. Back in early January, I wrote this: “The Obama health law was approved almost seven years ago, and while Republicans are overflowing with ideas on what they would change, there isn’t one plan out there which could get a majority in either the House or Senate if a vote were held this week.” That’s still true today in the Senate – and frankly, the House might have a hard time repeating its vote of early May in favor of a GOP health care bill. For whatever variety of reasons, Republicans never hammered out the details of a ‘repeal and replace’ plan – except for their snappy bumper sticker saying.
3. GOP strategy on health care has been a see-saw. After President Trump won in November, many in the GOP wanted to start off 2017 by having Congress vote to repeal large chunks of the Obama health law – and then move later on to fill in the blanks on what should replace the system. But that did not get the seal of approval from the President-Elect, so Republicans opted for ‘repeal and replace.’ As we have seen, that hasn’t gone too well, and this week the GOP ricocheted back to repeal, and then move later on to fill in the blanks on what should replace. Here is a tweet from January, when Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was joining the President in calling for ‘repeal and replace.’ Not anymore.
4. No Senate health care vote until at least next week. There was talk in the halls of a vote as early as Wednesday on the Senate floor, on whether to start debate on the GOP health care bill. By the end of the day, Senate Majority Leader McConnell backed off a quick showdown. “At the request of the President and Vice President, and after consulting with our members, we will have the vote on the motion to proceed to the Obamacare repeal bill early next week,” McConnell said. It’s not clear that the GOP will have 50 votes next week to begin debate, and start entertaining amendments on the Senate floor, raising the question of why top Republicans would want to move ahead with a vote that they might lose. Some wondered if it was a signal that it is time to move on to other issues.
5. There is the option of doing nothing. President Trump again said today that maybe the best choice for Republicans is to do nothing legislatively about the Obama health law, just let the situation fester and worsen, and then bring both parties together later to fix things in Congress. “I think we’re probably in that position where we will just let Obamacare fail,” the President told reporters on Tuesday. “We’re not going to own it – I’m not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it,” as the President tried to isolate himself, and the GOP from any political fallout related to failed efforts to repeal and replace the Obama health law.
6. No love from House Republicans for the Senate. After going through their own near-death experience on health care in March, April and May, GOP lawmakers in the House have little sympathy for Republicans in the Senate, and made that clear on Tuesday, as the Senate health care bill was derailed by GOP infighting. “Repeal. Replace. Congress, keep your promise,” said Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ). “It’s time for the Senate to act and repeal Obamacare,” said Rep. Neal Dunn (R-FL). “We cannot be the party of ‘no.’ We must be the party of solutions, and there is no bigger problem right now than the ongoing collapse of Obamacare,” said Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH). But for now, that magic solution has not appeared for the GOP in the Senate.
7. ‘Repeal and Delay’ seems to be going nowhere. The idea of bringing back a plan that was vetoed by President Obama last year does not have legs in the Senate right now, as at least four Republicans have made clear they will not support the idea – even though some of them voted for it back in 2015. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) were the three who deep-sixed the GOP backup plan – then others, like Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said they also want to see the GOP forge a replacement plan. I don’t think it’s appropriate just to repeal, we’ve also got to put a replacement in place,” Portman told home state reporters by telephone in Ohio. It wouldn’t surprise me if a few more GOP Senators agreed with that sentiment.
8. Will there be bipartisan negotiations on health care? For months, Democrats have jabbed at the GOP by demanding bipartisanship, while Republicans have said Democrats ran away on health care, refusing to offer up any ideas on how best to fix the Obama health law. Now, with Republicans short on votes, comes a real moment of truth for the GOP. What if – what if Republicans can’t muster a majority in the Senate? Should they start looking at talks with Democrats on a health care bill? That opens a big can of worms, because for some the answer would be, ‘absolutely not.’ But there were some surprising and influential voices who endorsed that idea – like conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham: