New reports confirm that the Senate is refusing to even hold a vote on the Obamacare repeal bill the House just passed, killing it within hours of its passage.
Bloomberg is reporting that Senate Republicans will snub the U.S. House of Representatives’ version of the American Health Care Act, instead opting to write its own version with a 12-member working group. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who is considered one of the more moderate Republicans in the chamber, said she’s looking forward to writing up a completely different healthcare reform bill with “a clean slate.”
Because the Senate only has 52 Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) can’t afford to have even three defections. Both Murkowski and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) voted against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ confirmation earlier this year, proving that the Republican majority in the Senate is tenuous at best.
The fact that the Senate is refusing to even take up the bill was likely no surprise to members of the House GOP. Even Republicans laughed at Paul Ryan when he said the Senate was eager to get to work on healthcare, according to CBS’ Mark Knoller.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) May 4, 2017
“The safest thing to say is there will be a Senate bill, but it will look at what the House has done and see how much of that we can incorporate in a product that works for us in reconciliation,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) in an interview with the Washington Examiner.
A Senate proposal is being developed by a 12-member working group with no specific deadline and using the House-passed bill as a springboard, not as a framework.
— Anna Edney (@annaedney) May 4, 2017
“We are just working toward getting 51 votes,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas). “There is no timeline. When we get 51 senators, we’ll vote.”
Normally, a bill requires 60 votes for cloture, which is necessary to allow an up-or-down majority vote on a given piece of legislation. However, Republicans are likely aware they won’t meet the 60-vote threshold, and are instead attempting to pass the bill through the budget reconciliation process, which only requires 51 votes.
Hospital groups ranging from American Medical Association, American Hospital Association to the AARP are opposed to the replacement for Obamacare, especially with the last-minute amendments that further erode protections for the sick and elderly.
“We cannot pull the rug out from under states like Nevada that expanded Medicaid and we need assurances that people with pre-existing conditions will be protected,” said a statement from Dean Heller (R-Nev.), one of the Senate’s most vulnerable Republicans.
“I’ve already made clear that I don’t support the House bill as currently constructed,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said in a statement, “because I continue to have concerns that this bill does not do enough to protect Ohio’s Medicaid expansion population, especially those who are receiving treatment for heroin and prescription drug abuse.”
With the incredibly narrow 217-213 margin in the House, it is unclear if a Senate version could possibly pass in the House, especially considering preexisting conditions and Medicaid expansion were points of heated contention in the House bill.
More than a few Republican Senators, including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, are deeply skeptical of the House’s bill.
A bill — finalized yesterday, has not been scored, amendments not allowed, and 3 hours final debate — should be viewed with caution.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) May 4, 2017
Meanwhile, some in the House seem equally skeptical of the Senate’s depictions of themselves as the ‘clean-up crew’ for the House bill.
“They tell us they’re so smart and they’re so good at this stuff and we’re so incapable that they need to work on it — and I agree with them,” said Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas). “They need to work on it. I want them to. I’m anxious to see what they’re going to do with finishing the job that we started.”
Health insurers have faced months of uncertainty as to the future shape of coverage in America due to the protracted debate over the repeal of Obamacare and what form Trumpcare might take already, and with the Senate drafting it’s own bill instead of voting on the House version, those months of uncertainty are set to continue.