Senate healthcare bill appears headed for failure

Senate Republicans plan to vote this week on revised healthcare reform legislation, but a number of serious problems mean that the chances of getting that bill passed are slim to none.

The latest wallop of bad news for Republicans came Friday when the Senate parliamentarian announced that key provisions of the revised bill would not pass muster under the special budgetary rules that Republicans are using to pass the legislation with a simple majority instead of 60 votes.

There is no indication yet from Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainJuan Williams: Obama's dire warnings about right-wing media Democrats' squabbling vindicates Biden non-campaign McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol MORE (R-Ariz.), who was diagnosed last week with brain cancer, that he will be back in Washington in time for a vote — which means GOP leaders may be starting one vote short.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsWhoopi Goldberg blasts Republicans not speaking against Trump: 'This is an attempted coup' Democrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Team Trump offering 'fire hose' of conspiracy Kool-Aid for supporters MORE (R-Maine), who has already announced her opposition to the Senate healthcare bill, on Sunday criticized what she called a confusing and disjointed process.

She said a vote is likely Tuesday, but said senators still don’t know whether they’ll vote on the House-passed measure, one of several Senate versions or a bill that simply repeals as much of the law as possible and sets a two-year transition period for crafting a yet-to-be-determined replacement.

“I don’t think that’s a good approach to facing legislation that affects millions of people and one sixth of our economy,” she said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulLoeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection Rick Scott tests positive for coronavirus Overnight Defense: Formal negotiations inch forward on defense bill with Confederate base name language | Senators look to block B UAE arms sales | Trump administration imposes Iran sanctions over human rights abuses MORE (R-Ky.), another opponent, called the revised Senate version a “pork fest.”

“They're dumping billions of dollars into pet projects for individual senators,” he said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Republicans control 52 Senate seats and can only afford two defections, since Vice President Pence would break a 50-50 tie.

Without McCain, Collins and Paul, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFeinstein to step down as top Democrat on Judiciary Committee Voters want a strong economy and leadership, Democrats should listen On The Money: Biden to nominate Yellen for Treasury secretary | 'COVID cliff' looms | Democrats face pressure to back smaller stimulus MORE (R-Ky.) does not have enough support to pass the bill.

McConnell appeared skeptical last week of getting 50 votes on the Senate bill that he and his Senate GOP colleagues have negotiated for months.

He announced on Monday, nearly a week ago, that “regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of ObamaCare will not be successful.”

He proposed voting to proceed to the House-passed healthcare bill and then replacing it with an amendment to repeal as much of ObamaCare as possible, setting up a two-year transition period to craft replacement legislation.

Two Republican senators who attended Wednesday’s meeting with President Trump at the White House say McConnell revived the Senate’s version of the repeal-and-replace legislation after Trump pressed him directly on it.

“He kept saying, ‘Mitch, don’t just vote on the motion to proceed, vote on the bill itself,’ ” said a GOP senator, who requested anonymity to discuss a conversation in a private meeting. The lawmaker made reference to the Better Care Reconciliation Act, the Senate repeal-and-replace bill.

A second lawmaker confirmed that Trump pressed McConnell to insist on a vote on the Senate repeal-and-replace bill, not just the motion to proceed to the House bill and the repeal-only bill.


Trump reiterated his position Saturday, tweeting, “The Republican senators must step up to the plate and, after 7 years, vote to repeal and replace.”

Emerging from the White House meeting Wednesday, McConnell announced that the Senate repeal-and-replace bill would be considered, after all.

“There is a large majority in our Conference that want to demonstrate to the American people that they intend to keep the commitment they made in four straight elections to repeal ObamaCare,” McConnell said.

But to do that, he will need to get 50 votes for the motion to proceed to the House-passed healthcare bill that can then be amended by replacing it with the Senate version or the repeal-only bill.

“I think we all agree it's better to both repeal and replace. But we could have a vote on either,” McConnell told reporters Wednesday, referring to the Senate repeal-and-replace bill and the repeal-only measure that passed in 2015 but was vetoed by President Obama.

“And if we end up voting on repeal-only, it will be fully amendable on the Senate floor,” he added.

A senior GOP aide pushed back strongly against the notion that McConnell doubts that GOP leaders can round up enough votes for repeal-and-replace legislation.

“He’s not skeptical. He appeared — past tense — more than skeptical early last week because more than three people had publicly announced that they would vote against the motion to proceed,” the aide said, referring to statements by Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeLoeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection Rick Scott tests positive for coronavirus OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight MORE (R-Utah), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranIt's time for Congress to act: Save jobs and stabilize the aerospace industry Lobbying world This World Suicide Prevention Day, let's recommit to protecting the lives of our veterans MORE (R-Kan.), Collins and Paul that they would vote against proceeding to the Senate’s repeal-and-replace bill.

Since Monday, McConnell’s problems have multiplied.

Elizabeth McDonough, the Senate parliamentarian, ruled that language cutting off federal funds for Planned Parenthood, a central provision for many conservatives, appeared to violate Senate rules.

She also raised a red flag over language would require people to wait six months before signing up for health coverage as a penalty if they allow their insurance to lapse.

And McConnell announced last weekend that the vote would be postponed because McCain underwent emergency surgery to remove a blood clot above his left eye.

Since then McCain has been diagnosed with a glioblastoma, an aggressive form of cancer, and is indefinitely away from Washington.

Then the Congressional Budget Office on Wednesday released a score projecting the revised version of the Senate healthcare bill would cause 22 million more people to be without health insurance in 2026 — the same number of uninsured as projected for the earlier bill, even after GOP leaders added $70 billion to a state insurance stabilization fund.