Healthcare

After Trump scolding, Senate to try again on ObamaCare repeal and replace

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is restarting ObamaCare repeal and replace negotiations following a White House meeting between a scolding President Trump and the Senate GOP conference. 

“Next week we’ll be voting on the motion to proceed, and I have every expectation that we’ll be able to get on the bill,” McConnell told reporters after the lunch with Trump.

It was not immediately clear which bill McConnell wanted to move to — a straight repeal of ObamaCare or the Senate’s ObamaCare repeal-and-replace legislation, which had seemed dead days ago.

But as the afternoon waned on, it seemed increasingly clear that McConnell’s hope is to get back to a new and improved Senate bill.

“It is contemporarily sort of revived,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) of the repeal and replace bill. “I think we don’t have any delusions about the fact that this is going to be very hard and we still have members who are not there yet.

McConnell said that Vice President Mike Pence, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, would be on Capitol Hill on Wednesday night to talk to Republicans about their concerns.

“There are going to be some meetings tonight up here with people who still have outstanding issues and I think the question will be, yeah, can we find a way to yes?” Thune said.

“I think there will be a lot more discussion before there’s a motion to proceed,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), one of four Republicans who said this week they would not back a repeal only strategy.

McConnell needs 50 votes to win a motion to proceed to the repeal bill.

Senate Majority Leader John Cornyn (R-Texas) did not specify whether the motion to proceed would be to the 2015 repeal bill passed by the Senate, or to the reconciliation bill Republicans had been working on.

“We’re still discussing it,” Cornyn told reporters, noting that a group of “key senators” will meet with administration officials and Pence in Sen. John Barrasso’s office Wednesday to discuss “unresolved issues.”

Asked which bill would be voted on, Cornyn said. “I suspect it will be anything senators want to vote on. If a senator wants to offer an amendment that’s the 2015 bill, they can do that.

“If we can get an agreement here, my preference would be to start with the BCRA, agree to language, and I think were getting closer.”

The Republican lawmakers who had been publicly opposed to moving to the bill — Sens. Shelly Moore Capito (W.Va.), Susan Collins (Maine), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Murkowski — had been worried about backing a repeal bill with no clear replacement measure in hand.

“I said back in January that if we’re going to do a repeal, there has to be a replacement. There’s enough chaos and uncertainty already,” Murkowski told reporters on Tuesday.

Republicans received a scolding from Trump at the outset of their meeting. The president said he was ready to sign legislation if the Senate sent it to him and called on them to cancel their August recess to get it done.

McConnell would not say if he would heed Trump’s request to cancel August recess to continue work on healthcare.

– Jessie Hellmann contributed to this piece.

Tags John Barrasso John Cornyn John Thune Lisa Murkowski Mike Pence Mitch McConnell Rob Portman Susan Collins

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