Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) will delay a vote on repealing and replacing Obamacare until after an upcoming congressional recess because there were too many defections within his own party, two senators have confirmed.
“We’re going to continue discussion in our conference,” McConnell told reporters. “We’re still working towards getting at least 50 people in a comfortable place.”
McConnell announced the delay to Republican senators on Tuesday afternoon, less than a week after his staffers released the Senate version of the bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare, Senators Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) told reporters.
At least six senators have said they oppose the bill in its current form, with no Democrats expected to support it in any form. If more than two GOP senators defect, the bill will fail.
One no vote, Senator Dean Heller (R-Nevada), has been targeted by attack ads in his home state that were paid for by a pro-Trump super PAC. Heller is seen as a moderate, as well as one of the most vulnerable senators up for reelection in 2018.
The announcement comes less than 24 hours after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its cost and coverage estimates of the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017. The CBO estimated that, under the Senate proposal, 22 million Americans would their health insurance coverage by 2026. The CBO assessment of the House bill in May said that 14 million Americans would lose insurance by 2018, while a total of 23 million would lose insurance within a decade.
Most of the people who would lose their insurance coverage would be those who are enrolled in Medicaid; by 2026, there would be 15 million fewer people on Medicaid. The cuts would be due to reduced federal payments for those enrollees starting in 2021.
“I have so many fundamental problems with the bill that have been confirmed by the CBO report that it’s difficult to see how any tinkering can address” them, Collins, a confirmed no vote, told reporters after meeting with her fellow Republicans on Tuesday.
McConnell wants a new CBO score, based on an update to the bill agreed to on Monday, Fox News reported. Monday’s amendment addresses the potential loophole left by the abolition of Obamacare’s individual mandate to purchase insurance. People who let their coverage expire for at least 63 days would be locked out of the insurance market for six months the following year, according to the amendment.
The House of Representatives version of the bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), went through a similar delay hours before an expected vote. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) was forced to pull the first version of the House bill in late March, saying the Republicans “just don’t have consensus.”
After six weeks, members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and the moderate Tuesday Group reached a compromise, allowing the bill to squeak through the lower chamber 217-213, with no Democrats voting for it.
Obamacare is supported by the majority of Americans, with 51 percent saying they view the health care law favorably, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation released last Friday. The AHCA is viewed unfavorably by 55 percent of Americans, and support for it among Republicans has dropped from 67 percent to 56 percent in the last month.
President Donald Trump has invited Senate Republicans to the White House Tuesday afternoon to discuss the bill, Politico reported.
McConnell praised Trump’s involvement in the process over the last week, saying the president has been “fully engaged.”
Republican Senators are working very hard to get there, with no help from the Democrats. Not easy! Perhaps just let OCare crash & burn!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 26, 2017
“We always anticipated the president would be very important in getting us to a conclusion,” McConnell said, because “under our system, he’s the one with the signature.”
Collins, however, was less effusive. “This president is the first president in our history who has had neither political nor military experience. And it has been a challenge to him to learn how to interact with Congress,” she said.