GOP leader: Senate could pass scaled-down ObamaCare repeal

GOP leader: Senate could pass scaled-down ObamaCare repeal
© Keren Carrion

Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Air Force makes criminal reporting changes after Texas massacre We need a better pathway for allowing civilians to move guns across state lines MORE (R-Texas) indicated Wednesday that is it likely the Senate will try to pass a scaled-down ObamaCare repeal bill as a way to move to negotiations with the House. 

The No. 2 Senate Republican told reporters Wednesday that a scaled-down, "skinny" bill "seems to have a lot of benefits, getting us to conference."

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Republicans view the so-called skinny bill as a way to keep the repeal process alive, given the chamber’s apparent inability to get the votes for a more sweeping bill. 

Cornyn said the House-passed bill could be the "template" for the negotiations in the conference committee. Many Senate Republicans, however, previously rejected the House bill and wanted to start over. 

Cornyn noted that new Senate ideas — such as Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzDebbie Wasserman Schultz marks 10 years as breast cancer survivor Foreign agent registration is no magical shield against Russian propaganda Let Trump be Trump and he'll sail through 2020 MORE's (R-Texas) amendment to let insurers sell plans outside of ObamaCare's regulations and Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Overnight Finance: House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama | GOP leaders to consider Dec. 30 spending bill | Justices skeptical of ban on sports betting | Mulvaney won't fire official who sued him How four GOP senators guided a tax-bill victory behind the scenes MORE's (R-Ohio) amendment to add $100 billion to help people losing Medicaid afford private coverage — could be included and could help pave the way for a deal in the conference committee. 

"We use the template of the House bill that addresses all of these issues and come up with the best of the ideas we've developed, like the Cruz freedom amendment and the Portman negotiation on Medicaid and the wraparound, and all those would be live and could be used as part of a deal in the conference committee," Cornyn said. 

"So I think all we're looking at is a way to get to that conference quick," he added. 

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) likewise said Wednesday that passing the skinny bill would be a way to get to the conference committee, and would also buy time for the Congressional Budget Office to score the new proposals, including the Cruz and Portman amendments. 

Aides have said that a "skinny" bill is likely to be just a repeal of the individual and employer mandates in ObamaCare, as well as the medical device tax, though Cornyn said the contents have not been fully determined yet. 

It is unclear whether even a "skinny" bill has enough votes to pass the Senate. 

Democrats argue that a vote for such a bill is really a vote for continuing the repeal process and setting up an uncertain negotiation with the House.