Senate GOP appears to have votes to win initial healthcare motion

Three key GOP senators said they would vote with their party on a procedural motion that would begin debate on ObamaCare repeal legislation, breaking a stalemate and signaling that Republicans have the votes to move forward.

Sens. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerThis week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary MORE (Nev.) and Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoThis week: House jump-starts effort to prevent shutdown Congress set to ignore Trump's wall request in stopgap measure America is in desperate need of infrastructure investment: Senate highway bill a step in the right direction MORE (W.Va.) said they would back their party on the procedural motion minutes before the vote was to begin.

Separately, an Ohio newspaper reported that fellow GOP centrist Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanCost for last three government shutdowns estimated at billion The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation MORE (Ohio) would also vote "yes."

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The three votes mean Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellToomey on gun reform: 'Beto O'Rourke is not helping' Election meddling has become the new normal of US diplomacy DC statehood push faces long odds despite record support MORE (R-Ky.) almost certainly has the 50 votes he needs to begin debate.

What is unclear is what will emerge from the effort.

Republicans plan to offer several different measures as amendments to the House ObamaCare repeal-and-replace measure.

They include a straight repeal of ObamaCare with a two-year delay; a Senate repeal-and-replace bill; and a slimmed-down repeal that would end the individual and employer mandates as well as a tax on medical devices.

It's not clear whether any of those measures will be able to win enough support to pass the Senate.

Anything approved by the Senate would then have to be either approved by the House or sent to a conference committee to work out differences with the House bill.

Heller, who is seen as the most vulnerable Senate Republican incumbent in 2018, announced in a statement Tuesday that he will vote to advance healthcare legislation.

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

“Doing nothing to try to solve the problems it has created isn’t the answer,” he said. “That is why I will vote to move forward and give us a chance to address the unworkable aspects of the law that have left many Nevadans — particularly those living in rural areas — with dwindling or no choices.”

The stance is a bit of a turnaround for Heller. Just a month ago, he had warned that he opposed a motion to proceed to the Senate version of healthcare reform because it would leave tens of millions more people uninsured.

Heller declined to say whether he would support a revised Senate bill that phases out generous federal payments for expanded Medicaid enrollment. 

Portman will also vote in favor of the key procedural motion, 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, long seen as a key swing vote, had called Kasich to tell him the news.

Capito issued a statement announcing her decision.

“Today, I will vote to begin debate to repeal and replace Obamacare. As this process advances on the Senate floor, I will continue to make decisions that are in the best interest of West Virginians," she said.

"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.”