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 McCainOvernight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal Bipartisan senators reintroduce bill to prevent Trump from withdrawing from NATO Mark Kelly considering Senate bid as Arizona Dems circle McSally 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 CollinsOvernight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal McConnell blocks bill to reopen most of government Bipartisan senators reintroduce bill to prevent Trump from withdrawing from NATO 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 PaulPressure mounts for Trump to reconsider Syria withdrawal House Republicans call for moving State of the Union to Senate chamber GOP rep: 'Rand Paul is giving the president bad advice' on Afghanistan and Syria 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 McConnellTSA agents protest government shutdown at Pittsburgh airport The case for Russia sanctions Pompeo planning to meet with Pat Roberts amid 2020 Senate speculation 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 LeeHillicon Valley: Trump AG pick signals new scrutiny on tech giants | Wireless providers in new privacy storm | SEC brings charges in agency hack | Facebook to invest 0M in local news AG pick Barr wants closer scrutiny of Silicon Valley 'behemoths' Grassroots political participation is under attack in Utah and GOP is fighting back MORE (R-Utah), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranOn The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Overnight Defense: Trump faces blowback over report he discussed leaving NATO | Pentagon extends mission on border | Senate advances measure bucking Trump on Russia sanctions 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.