The Hill is providing live coverage of the Senate’s Wednesday evening voting marathon.
Senate passes budget with ObamaCare repeal rules
The Senate has officially taken the first step toward repealing ObamaCare, with the House expected to hold its own vote on Friday.
Senators voted 51-48 on the budget resolution, which includes instructions for nixing the Affordable Care Act, largely along a party-line vote. GOP Sen. Ran Paul (Ky.) was the only Republican to vote against the resolution.
He said after the vote that while he supports repealing ObamaCare, “putting nearly $10 trillion more in debt on the American people’s backs through a budget that never balances is not the way to get there.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who had missed all of the amendment votes, also returned to the upper chamber to give Republicans their 51st vote.
Democrats, who were unsuccessful in blocking the bill, rose one-by-one from their seats to explain why they were voting against the resolution.
Senate takes final amendment vote
Senators took their final amendment vote, rejecting an amendment from Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) aimed at blocking legislation that would negatively impact insurance for children under Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program or private markets established by ObamaCare.
Senators voted 49-49 on the amendment.
Sens. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) made their final pitches on the budget resolution after the vote.
Enzi called the resolution a “first step toward reducing the federal government’s role that’s prevented Americans from pursing affordable and accessible health care that meets their needs without emptying their wallets.”
But Sanders fired back that Americans would die under the GOP repeal effort.
“Up to 30 million Americans will lose their healthcare with many thousands dying as a result,” he said ahead of the final vote. “Because when you have no health insurance and you can’t go to a doctor or a hospital, you die.”
Senators block dueling amendments on women’s health
Senators blocked competing amendments aimed at bolstering women’s healthcare as lawmakers head toward the end of vote-a-rama.
The Senate voted 52-46 on amendment from GOP Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) that would have allowed for strengthening community health centers and repealing and replacing ObamaCare. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) was the only senator to break ranks and vote for the Republican amendment.
The Senate also rejected an amendment from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on a 49-49 vote to crack down legislation that would make “women sick again,” a reference to the Democratic argument that by repealing ObamaCare Republicans will “make America sick again.” Gillibrand’s amendment would have blocked decreasing access to preventative health care, birth control and maternity care.
GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Dean Heller (Nev.) supported the Democratic amendment. Both amendments needed 60 votes to move forward.
Senators prepare to wrap up vote-a-rama
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) announced a deal to vote on an four amendments and then final passage on the budget resolution, which includes rules to replace ObamaCare.
The announcement could pave the way for lawmakers to finish up work for the night around 1 a.m.
The Senate will vote on amendments from Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Orrin Hatch (R-Uah) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), before voting on the budget resolution.
Senators battle over prescription drugs
Senators rejected two amendments on importing prescription drugs.
Senators voted 46-52 to reject an amendment from Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) to allow “American pharmacists, wholesalers, and individuals with a valid prescription” to import prescription drugs from Canada.
“Let’s be clear about it today Mr. Trump, a guy I don’t quote very often, has said that pharma gets away with murder. That’s what Trump said. He is right,” Sanders said ahead of the votes on the amendments. “The time has come for us to stand up to the drug companies.”
Senators also rejected an amendment from Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, that would have allowed for the importation of prescription drugs “only under certain conditions.”
Alexander added that his amendment was aimed at making sure any drugs sold in the United States are approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
“I can’t tell you the number of impassioned speeches I’ve heard from my Democratic friends about drug safety and the gold standard for the Food and Drug Administration,” he said.
Vote-a-rama passes four-hour mark
The Senate’s vote-a-rama is crossing into its fourth hour with lawmakers still working through the first tranche of amendments.
So far 11 amendments have been defeated and no amendments have been successfully added to the budget resolution.
Senators have largely huddled on the Senate floor since around 6:30 p.m. when they began arriving for the first vote, but they’re blasting out updates over social media.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said discussions between senators was turning into “ailment one upsmanship.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) blasted Republicans for voting against an amendment that would help ensure individuals with pre-existing conditions can keep insurance coverage.
GOP senators drop push to delay ObamaCare repeal
A group of Senate Republicans announced Wednesday night that they are dropping their push to formally delay the repeal of ObamaCare.
Five Republicans introduced an amendment earlier this week that would have given senators until March 3 to come up with the repeal legislation instead of the Jan. 27 deadline included in the budget resolution.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said that Republicans were withdrawing their amendment after “thoughtful” conversations among GOP senators about how to repeal and replace ObamaCare.
“I know a date has been put in this reconciliation of Jan. 27, and we realize that is not a real date,” he said. “It’s a placeholder.”
It’s unclear if the GOP senators had enough votes to pass the amendment.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, had said warned earlier this week that delaying ObamaCare repeal could cause a “jam” on the Senate floor.
Senate blocks amendment to preserve preexisting condition protection
Republican senators rejected a Democratic amendment meant to protect health insurance for people with preexisting conditions.
The amendment, offered by Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), would have blocked legislation that allows health insurance companies to deny coverage to people with chronic illnesses or disabilities, or place lifetime caps on coverage.
The amendment fell 49-49 on a procedural vote. It needed 60 votes to proceed.
The Affordable Care Act makes it illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage over pre-existing conditions, and Republican congressional leaders say they intend to keep such widely popular protections in their replacement plan.
But Democrats and some healthcare experts say preserving the coverage requirement without forcing most Americans to have health insurance would be too costly to work.
The amendment is one of several Democrat efforts to force votes on protecting popular parts of ObamaCare, and intended to block bills that would “make America sick again,” their slogan opposing ObamaCare repeal.
Democrats force vote on insurance for young adults
Senators rejected an amendment from Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) aimed at making it harder to pass legislation that would “make young people sick again.”
Senators voted 48-50 on the amendment, which needed 60 votes to overcome a procedural hurdle. GOP Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) broke ranks and voted for the amendment.
“We had in this nation an uninsurance crises among young people” before the Affordable Care Act, Baldwin said ahead of the vote. “We have an opportunity to protect young people through my amendment.”
Baldwin’s proposal also backs allowing young adults to say on their parents’ health insurance until they turn 26, one of the more popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
Democrats are planning to force votes on a myriad of amendments that would block legislation to “make America sick again,” a play off the Democratic slogan against the GOP plan to repeal ObamaCare.
The vote comes as senators are slowly working through the first tranche of amendments. Nearly two hours into vote-a-rama they’ve voted on five amendments.
Senate rejects amendment to protect rural hospitals
Senators blocked an amendment spearheaded by three vulnerable Democrats up for reelection in 2018 intended to protect funding for rural hospitals.
The amendment, offered by Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Jon Tester (Mont.), would have blocked legislation that could reduce insurance rates in rural areas or reduce federal funding to rural hospitals.
The Senate rejected the amendment 51-47 through a procedural vote. It needed 60 votes to pass.
Manchin, Heitkamp and Tester are all moderate Democrats, up for reelection in 2018 and from rural states that voted for President-elect Donald Trump.
Rural areas are some of the most dependent on ObamaCare, and supporting the amendment lets Democrats play up efforts to protect healthcare for rural constituents.
“You can go home and say basically no matter what happens with the Affordable Care Act,” said Manchin, “we’re going to protect our rural hospitals and clinics.”
Republican Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (W.V.), Susan Collins (Maine), Dean Heller (Nev.) and Rob Portman (Ohio) voted for the amendment.
New senator visits with reporters
Freshman Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) brought snacks for reporters in the Senate press gallery as vote-a-rama got underway.
“We’re really just up here more than anything else to break the ice and get to know you,” he told reporters, noting he had brought his communications staff with him.
Young won election in November, replacing retiring GOP Sen. Dan Coats.
Senators arrive for first votes
Senators arrived for the first tranche of amendment votes, coming over to the Capitol from confirmation hearings and the Senate office buildings.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) tweeted out a photo of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) posing with a group on the way to the first vote.
Not every senator appeared excited about likely having to spend hours on the Senate floor, with votes expected to last late into Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told a reporter that the marathon session wasn’t a good use of taxpayer dollars.
Senators kick off vote-a-rama
Senators are gearing up for the “vote-a-rama,” and have filed nearly 170 amendments to be considered.
Here are some of the amendments to watch:
An amendment from Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) would throw congressional support behind not repealing ObamaCare until lawmakers are prepared to vote on a replacement plan that provides “at least the same level of health care coverage as current law.”
An amendment from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) would back allowing drugs to be imported through from other countries, an idea that President-Elect Donald Trump supported during the presidential campaign.
An amendment from five Republicans, including GOP Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) is shaping up to be the GOP amendment to watch. It would delay the deadline for ObamaCare repeal legislation from Jan. 27 to March 3.
An amendment from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) would prohibit consideration of legislation that would “make women sick again,” a play of the Democratic slogan that Republicans want to “make America sick again.”
An amendment from Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), a close ally of Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), would block legislation that cuts or modifies Medicare. Democrats have warned that Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, would work to private Medicare.