Senate

Senate GOP appears to have votes to win initial healthcare motion

Three key GOP senators said they would vote with their party on a procedural motion that would begin debate on ObamaCare repeal legislation, breaking a stalemate and signaling that Republicans have the votes to move forward.

Sens. Dean Heller (Nev.) and Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) said they would back their party on the procedural motion minutes before the vote was to begin.

Separately, an Ohio newspaper reported that fellow GOP centrist Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio) would also vote "yes."

The three votes mean Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) almost certainly has the 50 votes he needs to begin debate.

What is unclear is what will emerge from the effort.

Republicans plan to offer several different measures as amendments to the House ObamaCare repeal-and-replace measure.

They include a straight repeal of ObamaCare with a two-year delay; a Senate repeal-and-replace bill; and a slimmed-down repeal that would end the individual and employer mandates as well as a tax on medical devices.

It's not clear whether any of those measures will be able to win enough support to pass the Senate.

Anything approved by the Senate would then have to be either approved by the House or sent to a conference committee to work out differences with the House bill.

Heller, who is seen as the most vulnerable Senate Republican incumbent in 2018, announced in a statement Tuesday that he will vote to advance healthcare legislation.

Heller argued that blocking a debate would leave the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, as the status quo.

"Doing nothing to try to solve the problems it has created isn't the answer," he said. "That is why I will vote to move forward and give us a chance to address the unworkable aspects of the law that have left many Nevadans - particularly those living in rural areas - with dwindling or no choices."

The stance is a bit of a turnaround for Heller. Just a month ago, he had warned that he opposed a motion to proceed to the Senate version of healthcare reform because it would leave tens of millions more people uninsured.

Heller declined to say whether he would support a revised Senate bill that phases out generous federal payments for expanded Medicaid enrollment.

Portman will also vote in favor of the key procedural motion, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

The Dispatch quoted a source close to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican who has opposed various Senate ObamaCare repeal-and-replace measures. The source said Portman, long seen as a key swing vote, had called Kasich to tell him the news.

Capito issued a statement announcing her decision.

"Today, I will vote to begin debate to repeal and replace Obamacare. As this process advances on the Senate floor, I will continue to make decisions that are in the best interest of West Virginians," she said.

"I remain committed to reforming our health care system while also addressing the concerns I have voiced for months. I will continue to push for policies that result in affordable health care coverage for West Virginians, including those who are in the Medicaid population and those struggling with drug addiction."

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