The Senate health-care bill collapsed Monday night, after opposition from two more Republican senators guaranteed it would not get the minimum number of votes needed to advance in a procedural vote, derailing a major goal of congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump. But the effort to overhaul America’s health-care system is not dead, and a bipartisan deal is suddenly a possibility, despite Sen. Mitch McConnell’s sudden call for a vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
On Monday, Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas joined Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky in publicly opposing the Senate bill, with the two conservatives saying it did not do enough to repeal so-called Obamacare. By announcing their opposition at the same time, neither could be seen as the decisive “no” vote. The bill could not afford to lose more than two Republican votes.
“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,” Lee said in a statement Monday night.
Moran agreed, and in a separate statement said, “we should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy.”
Late Monday, Trump tweeted his latest preference — for Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act now and worry about replacing it later:
Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 18, 2017
That seems to be McConnell’s preference too. The Senate majority leader issued a statement late Monday night calling for a vote in the coming days to repeal the Affordable Care Act with a two-year delay, “to provide for a stable transition period.”
MCCONNELL now says Senate to now vote on clean repeal of Obamacare with two-year delay: pic.twitter.com/VJE8gEkeTH
— Sean Sullivan (@WaPoSean) July 18, 2017
But that may be a tough sell for moderate Republicans, who are wary of repealing the law with nothing ready to replace it and no guarantee a better bill will be approved in the next two years. Once again, Republicans can only afford to lose two votes, and if a repeal vote fails, McConnell would be left with few options.
One of those options would be something many hard-line Republicans seem loathe to consider: Working with Democrats.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York welcomed the bill’s collapse Monday, and immediately called for a bipartisan effort to rework the existing health-care law. “This second failure of Trumpcare is proof positive that the core of this bill is unworkable,” the Democrat said in a statement. “Rather than repeating the same failed, partisan process yet again, Republicans should start from scratch and work with Democrats on a bill that lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the markets and improves our health-care system.”
As outlandish as that plan may seem in these bitterly partisan times, it may be one step closer to reality. McConnell admitted as much earlier this month, telling a Rotary Club audience in his home state that failure to get 50 Republican votes would force him to work with Democrats to form a more modest overhaul bill.
“If my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement, then some kind of action with regard to the private health insurance market must occur,” McConnell said, according to the Washington Post. “No action is not an alternative. We’ve got the insurance markets imploding all over the country, including in this state.”
Whichever way this plays out, it will be back to the drawing board in Washington.