Week ahead: GOP leaders hope to keep momentum for ObamaCare repeal

Week ahead: GOP leaders hope to keep momentum for ObamaCare repeal
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate approves .3 trillion spending bill, sending to Trump GOP senator threatened to hold up bill over provision to honor late political rival: report Paul: Shutting down government not my goal MORE (R-Ky.) was forced to delay a planned vote on the GOP ObamaCare repeal and replace bill initially planned for this week.

McConnell put off the vote after Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainAfghanistan is our longest war ever and Congress has abandoned all responsibility Kremlin: ‘We have a long way to go’ before any breakthrough with US The GOP is Trump's party now MORE (R-Ariz.) on Saturday announced he would be out for the week as he recovers from a surgery. McCain's absence left Republicans without the votes needed to advance the legislation.

Leaders could face a tough task keeping their momentum. Republicans already have little room for error as they try to get a repeal bill to President Trump's desk.

A revised draft released Thursday didn't make any changes to the bill's Medicaid cuts and the rollback of ObamaCare's expansion of the program, meaning several moderates still aren't ready to support the bill. 

McConnell met with Republican Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiProposed budget for Indian Health Services won't treat Native American patients equally Keep anti-environment riders for Alaska out of spending bill Industry should comply with the Methane Waste Prevention Rule MORE (Ala.), Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerRepublican drops Senate primary challenge to Heller after Trump's urging Three states where Dems can pick up Senate seats GOP senator: Justice Kennedy is going to retire this summer MORE (Nev.), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoLawmakers propose boosting park funding with oil money Lawmakers trade barbs, torch Trump at DC soiree Overnight Health Care: Senators unveil bipartisan opioid bill | DOJ to seek reimbursements from opioid companies | Groups looking to end AIDS fear losing ground under Trump MORE (W.Va.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanLawmakers introduce bipartisan bill to speed up infrastructure permitting Overnight Tech: Zuckerberg breaks silence on Cambridge Analytica controversy | Senate passes sex trafficking bill | EU pushes new tax on tech | YouTube toughens rules on gun videos Senate passes controversial online sex trafficking bill MORE (Ohio) to discuss Medicaid Thursday afternoon but it's unclear if they made any progress. 

Leaders don't have a vote to spare on the motion to proceed after two Republicans, Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care: House passes .3T omnibus | Bill boosts funds for NIH, opioid treatment | Senators spar over ObamaCare fix | 'Right to Try' bill heads to the Senate Winners and losers from the .3T omnibus Senators introduced revised version of election cyber bill MORE (Maine) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate approves .3 trillion spending bill, sending to Trump GOP senator threatened to hold up bill over provision to honor late political rival: report Conservatives balk over funding bill ahead of shutdown  MORE (Ky.) said they will vote against it

The two on Sunday expressed pessimism that the bill would pass the upper chamber.

It's unclear how McConnell will try to win over the moderates. If he makes any more concessions, he could lose the support of conservatives who came on board after the GOP leader added an amendment from Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzConservatives balk over funding bill ahead of shutdown  Confirmation fight over Trump pick exposes blurred lines in GOP-LGBT activism GOP pushes to change Senate rules for Trump MORE (Texas).

Any further changes would also need analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), potentially delaying the vote even further in the face of pressure from the White House. 

A CBO score on the revised bill was expected Monday, but will also be delayed.

Moderates have also been leery of Cruz's amendment, which would allow insurers to sell plans that don't comply with ObamaCare's strict insurer requirements.

These plans would be cheaper but cover less and appeal to younger, healthy people who don't use as much healthcare. 

A condition of offering these plans is insurers must also sell plans that meet ObamaCare requirements.

These plans would likely become much more expensive than they are now since less healthy people and more sick people will purchase them, experts and insurers say. 

The conclusion from the CBO could be the determining factor on how Republican holdouts vote and the delayed vote could give the scorekeeper more time to review the Cruz amendment.

Republicans are facing pressure from the White House to pass repeal before the August recess, which McConnell has already delayed for two weeks in the Senate. 

Trump said Friday in a tweet that Senate Republicans "must come through as they have promised" on repeal.

Lawmakers will also be busy working on spending bills in the coming week.

The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday will mark up the fiscal 2018 Health and Human Services Budget, which includes a  $1.1 billion funding bump for the National Institutes of Health (NIH.)

Also on Capitol Hill, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing called "Examining Bipartisan Legislation to improve the Medicare Program" Thursday at 10 a.m.


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