Week ahead: Senate races toward healthcare vote

Week ahead: Senate races toward healthcare vote
© Greg Nash

After dozens of closed-door meetings, Republican senators are racing full speed ahead on their effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare, aiming for a vote on the legislation in the coming week.

On Thursday, the Senate unveiled its bill, but leaders cautioned that it's just a draft and will likely change before the chamber votes on the legislation.

"The bill will continue to change and this is going to be an ongoing negotiation until Tuesday or thereabouts where the leader will then have to file the bill on the Senate floor," Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynSenators huddle on Russia sanctions as tensions escalate Momentum builds for new COVID-19 relief for businesses Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products MORE (R-Texas) said Thursday afternoon.

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Leadership is aiming to hold a vote-a-rama on Thursday, which is a rapid succession of votes on the Senate floor. Democrats will likely try and hold the GOP's feet to the fire, forcing them to take difficult votes on amendments.

This could mean that, without hiccups in the schedule, the Senate could vote on the GOP's healthcare bill as soon as Thursday night or early Friday morning, Cornyn said.

First, the Senate needs a score from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which aims to release its analysis early next week.

Divisions among senators still remain. Just hours after the bill's release on Thursday, four conservative senators announced their opposition, but indicated a willingness to see changes and get to "yes."

"Currently, for a variety of reasons, we are not ready to vote for this bill, but we are open to negotiation and obtaining more information before it is brought to the floor," their statement said.

On Friday afternoon, Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerSeven most vulnerable governors facing reelection in 2022 Nevada becomes early Senate battleground Nevada governor Sisolak injured in car accident, released from hospital MORE (R-Nev.), one of the most vulnerable senators up for reelection in 2018, became the fifth Republican to announce he couldn't support the bill in its current form.

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Heller aired concerns about the bill's phase out of extra federal funds for Medicaid expansion.

"It's going to be very difficult to get me to a yes," Heller said.

Other areas of concern for some moderates include deep cuts to Medicaid and the defunding of Planned Parenthood.

The GOP can only afford to lose two votes -- assuming Vice President Pence breaks a tie -- on its bill repealing ObamaCare. Republicans are using a fast-track budget maneuver, known as reconciliation, to avoid a Democratic filibuster and pass the bill with 51 votes.  

Outside of repealing ObamaCare, a House Appropriations Subcommittee will hold a hearing Wednesday on the fiscal 2018 agriculture appropriations bill, which includes the Food and Drug Administration.

 

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