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McConnell: Senate will try to repeal ObamaCare with delayed replacement

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden attends first church service as president in DC, stops at local bagel shop Harry Reid 'not particularly optimistic' Biden will push to eliminate filibuster Senators spar over validity of Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-Ky.) said on Monday night the Senate will try to separate the ObamaCare repeal and replacement efforts, closing the door on the current GOP healthcare legislation. 

"In the coming days, the Senate will vote to take up the House bill with the first amendment in order being what a majority of the Senate has already supported in 2015 and that was vetoed by then-President Obama: a repeal of Obamacare with a two-year delay to provide for a stable transition period," McConnell said in a statement. 

The move means Senate Republicans will try to repeal ObamaCare now, while kicking a replacement until after the 2018 midterm elections.

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The 2015 ObamaCare repeal bill passed the Senate 52-47, with Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsBiden officials hold call with bipartisan group of senators on coronavirus relief plan The Hill's Morning Report - Biden's crisis agenda hits headwinds GOP senators say only a few Republicans will vote to convict Trump MORE (Maine) and then-Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkSenate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Senate makes SCOTUS nominee Barrett a proxy for divisive 2020 Senate Republicans scramble to put Trump at arm's length MORE (Ill.) the only Republicans to oppose it. 

McConnell will need to overcome procedural hurdles if he wants the Senate to get to a vote on a repeal-only proposal. He'll need at least 51 senators to support getting on the House-passed legislation, which is being used as a vehicle for any Senate action. 

And separating the two could force Republicans to get 60 votes — and the support of Democrats — on the replacement legislation. 

It wasn't immediately clear when the Senate would try to pass the repeal legislation. The upper chamber is expected to be in session until Aug. 11, when members will leave town until early September.

McConnell's announcement comes after GOP Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOvernight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage Austin sworn in as nation's first Black Pentagon chief The Hill's 12:30 Report: Next steps in the Trump impeachment MORE (Utah) and Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden's crisis agenda hits headwinds OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden's Interior Department temporarily blocks new drilling on public lands | Group of GOP senators seeks to block Biden moves on Paris, Keystone | Judge grants preliminary approval for 0M Flint water crisis settlement Bipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief MORE (Kan.) said Monday night that they couldn't support the current legislation, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act.

With a 52-seat majority McConnell can only afford to lose two GOP senators and still rely on Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceCancel culture comes for the moderates Trump pressed DOJ to go to Supreme Court in bid to overturn election: report Schumer calls for DOJ watchdog to probe alleged Trump effort to oust acting AG MORE break a tie. GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSunday shows preview: All eyes on Biden administration to tackle coronavirus The Hill's Morning Report - Biden takes office, calls for end to 'uncivil war' Senate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official MORE (Ky.) were already expected to oppose the legislation. 

With four Republican senators opposed to the current GOP bill, McConnell officially closed the door on the legislation late Monday night. 

“Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful," he said. 

It remains to be seen if McConnell will be able to wrangle enough support to repeal ObamaCare without a replacement plan hashed out. 

Repeal with a delayed replacement was Senate GOP leadership's original plan, which they backed away from earlier this year due to lack of support.  

McConnell himself shot down the idea earlier this month, instead warning that Republicans could be forced to work with Democrats to stabilize the insurance market. 

"We are going to stick with that path," McConnell said at an event in Kentucky earlier this month. "Failure has to be possible or you can't have success."

But even as McConnell continued to push back against separating ObamaCare repeal and replacement, moving a repeal-only bill gained the support of President Trump and a growing number of conservative senators. 

"Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!" Trump tweeted on Monday night after Lee and Moran's statements.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — who teamed up with Lee and Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTed Cruz, Seth Rogen trade insults as Twitter spat flares Biden leans on Obama-era appointees on climate Ethics complaint filed against Biggs, Cawthorn and Gosar over Capitol riot MORE (R-Texas) earlier this year to demand "full repeal" — quickly added on Twitter: "As @realDonaldTrump and I discussed last week. Clean repeal now!"

Repealing portions of ObamaCare without enacting a replacement could leave 18 million people without health insurance the following year, according to a report released Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in January.

After the elimination of ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion and insurance subsidies, 27 million people would lose insurance, and then 32 million by 2026, the CBO found.

The 2015 measure guts the law by repealing authority for the federal government to run healthcare exchanges and scrapping subsidies to help people afford plans bought through those exchanges. It zeros out the penalties on individuals who do not buy insurance and employers who do not offer health insurance.

The push to separate repeal and replacement comes after some GOP senators used the setback on the Senate bill to instead argue for a bipartisan process, with open hearings.
 
“The Congress must now return to regular order, hold hearings, receive input from members of both parties, and heed the recommendations of our nation's governors so that we can produce a bill that finally provides Americans with access to quality and affordable health care," Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainArizona GOP censures top state Republicans McCain, Flake and Ducey Whoopi Goldberg wears 'my vice president' shirt day after inauguration Budowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated MORE (R-Ariz.) said in a statement. 
 
Moran, in announcing his opposition, also said senators should "start fresh with an open legislative process."
 
Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenators spar over validity of Trump impeachment trial Trump selects South Carolina lawyer for impeachment trial Democrats formally elect Harrison as new DNC chair MORE (R-S.C.) put forward a third approach on Monday night, a bill he recently proposed with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) to give states a chunk of money and let them decide whether to keep much of ObamaCare or try something new.