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Live coverage: Senate begins debate on ObamaCare repeal

The Hill will be providing live updates as Senate Republicans seek to start their ObamaCare repeal effort on Tuesday. 

Corker: I couldn't support a bill without a CBO score

11:00 p.m.
 
Sen Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCongress punts fight over Dreamers to March Drama surrounding Shulkin — what is the future of VA health care? Blackburn pushes back on potential Corker bid: 'I'm going to win' MORE (R-Tenn.), one of a handful of Republicans to vote against the BCRA, said he couldn't support it when two of its amendments didn't have a CBO score. 
 
"I have no idea how it would play out and affect people across our country. I just don't know those things," he said. 
 
The CBO couldn't score both the Portman and Cruz amendments in time for the Tuesday night vote. 
 

Cruz says his amendment will end up in final version of healthcare bill

10:25 p.m.
 
 
"I believe we will see the Consumer Freedom Amendment in the legislation that is ultimately enacted," he said. 
 
The amendment would essentially allow insurers to sell plans that don't comply with ObamaCare regulations, as long as it also sold plans that did. 
 
The amendment was added to BCRA, which failed on the floor Tuesday night, but it could potentially be added to a bill when the House and Senate go to conference. 
 

Senate rejects ObamaCare repeal, replacement amendment

10:11 p.m.

The Senate rejected a key proposal repealing and replacing ObamaCare on Tuesday night, as senators start a days-long debate on healthcare. 

Senators voted 43-57 on a procedural hurdle for the measure that included the GOP repeal and a replace bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, as well as proposals from GOP Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Rob Portman (Ohio). 
 
GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Dean Heller (Nev.), Mike Lee (Utah), Jerry Moran(Kan.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Rand Paul (Ky.) voted against the repeal-replace proposal on the procedural hurdle. No Democrats voted for it. 
 
The proposal was the first amendment to get a vote after senators took up the House-passed healthcare bill, which is being used as a vehicle for any Senate action, earlier Tuesday

Portman touts stability funds amendment

9:07 p.m.

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanCommittee chairman aims for House vote on opioid bills by Memorial Day Flake to try to force vote on DACA stopgap plan Congress punts fight over Dreamers to March MORE (R-Ohio) touted his new amendment to the GOP's health bill on the Senate floor Tuesday night, though it is unlikely to get the 60 votes needed to pass.

The amendment, just added to the bill Tuesday night, would add $100 billion to the bill's state stability fund to help people who might lose the coverage they got under ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion. These funds could help cover out-of-pocket costs like deductibles and copays.

Portman said he "worked with the president, vice president and administrative officials" to "improve this bill further to help out low-income Ohioans." 

Portman was a holdout on the GOP's replacement bill, but indicated that his amendment moved him to "yes" on a crucial procedural vote on healthcare Tuesday afternoon.

The GOP's proposal repealing and replacing ObamaCare – being offered as an amendment to a bill currently being debated by the Senate – will likely need 60 votes, meaning it is unlikely to pass.

That's because the proposal includes two amendments, including Portman's, that have not yet been analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office, a requirement for the budgetary process Republicans are using to try to pass their healthcare bill. 

Senate ObamaCare repeal, replace plan expected to need 60 votes

6:34 p.m.

A proposal repealing and replacing ObamaCare—being offered as an amendment to a bill currently being debate by the Senate—will likely need 60 votes, almost guaranteeing that it won't be able to pass. 

Senate Republicans brought up their their repeal and replace proposal, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), after voting early Tuesday to proceed to the House-passed healthcare bill. 

The amendment will also include Sen. Ted Cruz's (Texas) proposal to give insurance companies more flexibility on what kinds of health insurance plans it offers, and a Medicaid proposal from Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio). 

Because the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has analyzed neither the Cruz nor Portman proposals, the entire repeal-and-replace amendment may be required to meet a 60-vote threshold, according to guidance from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers feel pressure on guns Bipartisan group of House lawmakers urge action on Export-Import Bank nominees Curbelo Dem rival lashes out over immigration failure MORE's (R-Ky.) office. 

Dems force GOP to read entire repeal amendment

5:12 p.m.

Democrats forced the Senate clerk to read the entirety of an amendment that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wanted to bring up on the healthcare bill.  

Normally senators agree to waive the requirement that the entire text of a bill or amendment be read.

But Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn Murray30 million people will experience eating disorders — the CDC needs to help Mulvaney remarks on Trump budget plan spark confusion Overnight Finance: Mulvaney sparks confusion with budget remarks | Trump spars with lawmakers on tariffs | Treasury looks to kill 300 tax regs | Intel chief's warning on debt MORE (D-Wash.) objected to the routine request from McConnell on Tuesday afternoon — the latest sign that Democrats are willing to slow walk the Senate over the healthcare fight. 

McConnell called up the first amendment to the bill, which was the 2015 repeal bill. He's expected to attach the Senate's repeal and replacement bill, along with amendments from GOP Sens. Rob Portman (Ohio) and Ted Cruz (Texas) to that as a second-degree amendment.  

Under Senate procedure, the chamber will vote first on the repeal and replace bill, before turning to repeal-only.  

Heller: Leadership wants to pass healthcare bill by Friday

3:57 p.m.

Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerThe siren of Baton Rouge Big Republican missteps needed for Democrats to win in November What to watch for in the Senate immigration votes MORE (R-Nev.) tells NBC News that GOP leaders want to vote on a healthcare bill by Friday.

Trump thanks McCain

3:25 p.m.

President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out 'subversion' at VA MORE thanked to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) shortly after the motion was agreed to, commenting on the Senate action at the start of Rose Garden remarks with the Lebanese prime minister.

"This was a big step. I want to thank Senator John McCain. Very brave man. He made a tough trip to get here and vote. So we want to thank Senator McCain and all of the Republicans," Trump said.
 
"We passed it without one Democrat vote. And that's a shame, but that's the way it is. And it's very unfortunate. But I want to congratulate American people, because we're going give you great health care. And we're going to get rid of Obamacare, which should have been, frankly, terminated long ago. It's been a disaster for the American people."

Trump's Twitter account sent out a similar message, and the White House also released a statement from the president.

"I applaud the Senate for taking a giant step to end the Obamacare nightmare," the statement said. "As this vote shows, inaction is not an option, and now the legislative process can move forward as intended to produce a bill that lowers costs and increases options for all Americans." 

McCain: ‘I will not vote for this bill as it is today’

3:18 p.m.

Taking the Senate floor after the vote, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he won’t vote for the bill as is, calling it “a shell of a bill” and urging a return to regular order in the Senate. 

Pence breaks tie

3:09 p.m.

Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceNorth Korea canceled secret meeting with Pence at Olympics Judicial order in Flynn case prompts new round of scrutiny The CIA may need to call White House to clarify Russia meddling MORE cast the tiebreaking vote, clearing the procedural motion and allowing the Senate to begin debating an ObamaCare repeal bill. 

 

McCain, Johnson vote yes

3 p.m.

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainLawmakers worry about rise of fake video technology Democrats put Dreamers and their party in danger by playing hardball Trump set a good defense budget, but here is how to make it better MORE (R-Ariz.) received a standing ovation as he took the Senate floor and voted yes on the motion to proceed.

He was joined by Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonTrump spars with GOP lawmakers on steel tariffs Overnight Regulation: Trump unveils budget | Sharp cuts proposed for EPA, HHS | Trump aims to speed environmental reviews | Officials propose repealing most of methane leak rule Trump budget seeks savings through ObamaCare repeal MORE (R-Wis.), getting the measure to 50.

Democrats are now casting "no" votes. 

 

Protesters chant from Senate gallery

2:50 p.m.

Some people watching the vote from the Senate gallery are protesting, shouting "Kill the bill" to senators gathered on the floor. 

 

Senate voting on motion to proceed

2:42 p.m. 

Republican Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Tech: Judge blocks AT&T request for DOJ communications | Facebook VP apologizes for tweets about Mueller probe | Tech wants Treasury to fight EU tax proposal Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won't stand FCC to officially rescind net neutrality rules on Thursday MORE (Maine) and Lisa Murkoswki (Alaska) voted against the motion to proceed. If all other Republicans vote yes, Vice President Mike Pence will cast the deciding vote to break the tie. 

So far, no Democrats have cast a vote. 

 

 

Schumer makes final plea to GOP: 'Turn back'

2:36 p.m.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats now attack internet rules they once embraced Schumer: Trump budget would ‘cripple’ gun background checks Schumer: Senate Republicans' silence 'deafening' on guns, Russia MORE (D-N.Y.) made a final pitch for Republicans to vote against starting debate on the healthcare bill.

"I will plead one last time with my friends on the other side of the aisle — and I know you have sincerely tried to modify and change things. Turn back," he said.

His comments come as Republicans appear to have the votes to proceed to the House-passed healthcare legislation.

Schumer added that if Republicans vote against the bill, Democrats would work with them on legislation.

GOP senators head to the floor 

2:30 p.m. 

Senate Republicans emerged from a closed-door lunch, many remaining tight-lipped as they headed to the Senate floor for a vote to begin debate on ObamaCare repeal legislation.

Capito will back motion to proceed

2:26 p.m.

Another key GOP senator said she wold vote with the party on the procedural motion to would begin debate on ObamaCare repeal legislation.

“Today, I will vote to begin debate to repeal and replace Obamacare,” Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoAt least Alzheimer’s research is bringing Washington together Overnight Tech: Intel chief says 'no doubt' Russia will meddle in midterms | Dems press FCC over net neutrality comments | Bill aims to bridge rural-urban digital divide | FCC to review rules on children's TV Senators offer bill to close rural-urban internet divide MORE (W.Va.) said in a Tuesday afternoon statement.

“As this process advances on the Senate floor, I will continue to make decisions that are in the best interest of West Virginians. 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.”

Heller to vote yes to begin healthcare debate

2:15 p.m.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) on Tuesday will vote to begin the healthcare debate.

Heller, who is seen as the most vulnerable Senate Republican incumbent in 2018, announced in a statement that he will vote to advance healthcare legislation, even though he warned last month that he opposed a motion to proceed to the Senate version of the healthcare bill because it would leave tens of millions more people uninsured.

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

He was one of a handful of Republican senators considered most likely to block a debate on healthcare legislation and send Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) back to the drawing board.

Paul: Clean repeal up for consideration first

2:08 p.m.

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulDem wins Kentucky state House seat in district Trump won by 49 points GOP's tax reform bait-and-switch will widen inequality Pentagon budget euphoria could be short-lived MORE (R-Ky.) told reporters that he believes Republican leaders would move to a vote on a clean repeal of ObamaCare after passing a motion to proceed.

Up next would be a vote to repeal and replace ObamaCare, he said.

"Then it's going to be open to see what happens. I think people are predicting we may be able to get a more 'skinny' repeal that involves some things we can find consensus."

Paul has been staunchly opposed to the Senate's repeal-and-replace bill.

The bulk of the Senate GOP conference is still at lunch.

Portman to back motion to proceed

2:01 p.m.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) will vote in favor of the key procedural motion to effectively start debate in the Senate on ObamaCare legislation, 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 had called Kasich to tell him the news.

Portman has long been seen as a key swing vote, and his support for the measure will make it more difficult for other centrists on the fence to vote "no."

Collins: 'Skinny' GOP health plan not adequate

1:35 p.m.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a key moderate, voiced concern over the slimmed-down Senate GOP plan going into the GOP policy lunch.

Collins said she had not heard about the so-called skinny ObamaCare repeal plan until a reporter asked about.

“I would look forward to hearing more details about that at lunch,” she said, as Senate Republicans gathered to discuss healthcare strategy ahead of this afternoon’s vote. 

Schumer knocks Rand Paul over support for key procedural vote

1:35 p.m.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) knocked Sen. Rand Paul after the Kentucky Republican signaled he would vote to start the healthcare debate.

"It’s true that he will likely get a vote on an amendment to do repeal without replace — but surely he knows that vote will fail. Why, then, would the junior Senator from Kentucky ... vote on the motion to proceed knowing that he won’t get what he wants?" Schumer asked.

Schumer added that he thinks Paul is going along with GOP leadership because if the Senate goes to conference with the House to merge their proposals, "the likeliest compromise in conference is full repeal of the Affordable Care Act or something close to it."

Paul said on Twitter earlier on Tuesday that the Senate will take up the 2015 ObamaCare repeal bill if they can get the 50 votes needed to start debate on the House-passed healthcare measure.

GOP senator: 'Skinny' repeal 'rather unsatisfying'

1:22 p.m.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said a proposed "skinny repeal" of ObamaCare would be "rather unsatisfying from my standpoint."

Johnson said that GOP leaders haven't yet told him what such a repeal would look like.

The conservative senator has been a frequent critic of the hurried process used to try to pass ObamaCare repeal and the limited info from leaders.

"You have to start with information. In this alternate universe, information is the last step in the process, including, I guess, right now, what we’re actually going to vote on, which is a little hard to believe," Johnson told reporters.

When asked if pared-down repeal would be better than nothing, Johnson didn't respond, but shook his head.

'Skinny' bill would delay repeal of ObamaCare mandates 

1:10 p.m.
 
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said the "skinny bill" would delay the repeal of the individual and employer mandates for two years. 
 
He said he would support the skinny bill in order to "get to the next step."
 
Pence, Priebus arrive in Capitol 
 
1 p.m. 
 
Vice President Pence and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus have been spotted heading into the Senate GOP lunch.
 
The vote on the motion to proceed is expected shortly after the lunch ends.  

Chamber of Commerce urges yes vote to debate

12:55 p.m.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday urged senators to vote in favor of the motion to begin debate on healthcare legislation, saying that it will consider including the vote in its annual scorecard.

"While good faith negotiations continue, remaining issues can be dealt with on the Senate Floor through the debate and amendment process," Jack Howard, senior vice president of congressional and public affairs at the Chamber, said in a letter to senators.

Heritage Action and Americans for Tax Reform have also called on lawmakers to vote yes on the motion.

McConnell pitches colleagues on beginning repeal debate

12:21 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is urging his caucus to vote to start debate on repealing and replacing ObamaCare, a few hours before a key procedural hurdle. 

"Any senator who votes against starting debate is telling America that you're just fine with the ObamaCare nightmare," he said.  

McConnell will need at least 50 GOP senators to vote "yes" on taking up the House bill, which is being used as a vehicle for any Senate action.

He got a late boost of momentum after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) signaled he would vote "yes," on the heels of news that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is returning to the Senate in time for the Tuesday afternoon vote.

No. 2 Republican reiterates 'everything's on the table'

12:10 p.m. 

Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynLawmakers feel pressure on guns Kasich’s campaign website tones down gun language after Florida shooting Murphy: Trump’s support for background check bill shows gun politics ‘shifting rapidly’ MORE (R-Texas) said "everything's on the table," just a few hours ahead of a vote to begin debate on repealing ObamaCare.

When asked if it was possible to move to a "skinny" repeal bill, Cornyn said, "I think we can do that."

He reiterated that if the Senate can pass a bill, it can go to conference with the House to hammer out the details. 

Paul a 'yes' on key healthcare vote

12:08 p.m.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that he will support a motion to proceed to debate on healthcare later in the day.

Paul tweeted that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told him the upper chamber would take up the 2015 ObamaCare repeal bill previously passed by Congress.

“If this is indeed the plan, I will vote to proceed and I will vote for any all measures that are clean repeal,” Paul said

Paul has pushed for a vote on the 2015 bill, which repeals large parts of ObamaCare's requirements and regulations, instead of the GOP repeal-and-replace plan that Republicans have been working on this year.

If that measure can't get the 60 votes it needs, which is unlikely, Paul said he would support "whatever version of CLEAN repeal we can pass."

McCain returning to the Senate this afternoon

12:06 p.m.

Sen. John McCain will return to the Senate about 2:45 p.m. on Tuesday, according to the Arizona Republican's office.

McCain, whose office announced last week he had been diagnosed with brain cancer, is returning in time to vote on taking up the House-passed healthcare bill in the upper chamber.

His office said McCain will speak on the Senate floor after the vote for first remarks since returning to Capitol Hill, and then speak with reporters off the Senate floor.

Senators prepare for dramatic vote

11:35 a.m.

Senate Republicans are preparing to take a dramatic procedural vote on Tuesday that could make or break their ObamaCare repeal effort.

It’s unclear if Republicans will have the 50 votes they need to clear a first procedural hurdle, though they are pulling out all the stops to do so.

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The vote on a motion to proceed to the House ObamaCare repeal-and-replace measure is expected sometime Tuesday afternoon, but it hasn’t been scheduled.

The latest Senate GOP effort to get a bill through the Senate is the proposal of a “skinny” repeal bill that would end ObamaCare’s mandates and the medical device tax.

The hope is that this measure might win 50 votes from Republican senators who have been divided on healthcare.

GOP leaders have kept members mostly in the dark about what they will ultimately be voting on: a full repeal of ObamaCare with a two-year delay to find a replacement; the Better Care Reconciliation Act, which would make dramatic changes to Medicaid in addition to repealing large parts of the law; or the “skinny repeal.”

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoThe 14 GOP senators who voted against Trump’s immigration framework Overnight Energy: Senate panel advances Trump pick for EPA No. 2 | Pruitt questions ‘assumptions’ on climate | Dems want Pruitt recused from climate rule review Senate panel advances Trump pick for No. 2 official at EPA MORE (R-Wyo.) said if members succeed in moving to begin debate, leaders don't even need to decide what the final product will be until after 20 hours of debate expire.

It's a highly unusual situation for the upper chamber to find itself in, made even more dramatic by Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) return to the Senate after being diagnosed with a brain tumor.

 

– Nathaniel Weixel, Jordain Carney, Naomi Jagoda, Rachel Roubein, Peter Sullivan and Jessie Hellmann contributed