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Unhappy senators complain about healthcare process

Key senators on Monday expressed unhappiness with the way the healthcare debate has been handled in the Senate on the eve of a critical procedural vote that could bury the Republican measure.

The senators representing different sides of the GOP conference said they are frustrated to not know the direction of the healthcare legislation — or even what they might be voting to proceed toward on Tuesday.

Several stopped short of threatening to withhold support from their leaders, however.

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“I don't have a clue what we're gonna be voting on,” said Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSenators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Sunday shows preview: Trump, Biden gear up for final sprint to Election Day Two Loeffler staffers test positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Wis.). “I just need to know what I’m going to vote on. I’m not real happy with the process.”

The Senate is set to vote on a motion to proceed to the ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill approved by the House, but leaders have not said which bill the Senate will then take up.

It could be a clean ObamaCare repeal with a two-year delay, or a repeal-and-replace bill that has fractured the GOP conference.

“I'd like to know,” said Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGOP clears key hurdle on Barrett's Supreme Court nomination, setting up Monday confirmation Senators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Murkowski says she will vote to confirm Barrett to Supreme Court on Monday MORE (R-Alaska), a possible swing vote. “I’m told we'll be finding that out, which would be very important.”

Murkowski said she’s undecided about how she’ll vote on the motion to proceed. 

Republicans control 52 Senate seats and can only afford two defections, since Vice President Pence would break a 50-50 tie.

If the vote fails, it could be the end of the GOP’s ObamaCare repeal effort.

When asked if he was concerned that leaders hadn’t told him what bill they’ll be proceeding to, Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGraham wants to review ActBlue's source of small-dollar contributions GOP blocks Schumer effort to adjourn Senate until after election Candymakers meet virtually with lawmakers for annual fly-in, discuss Halloween safety MORE (R-Ohio) simply said “ask leadership.”

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTwo Loeffler staffers test positive for COVID-19 Michigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test GOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Ky.) also expressed his frustration about not knowing the next steps. He noted that neither the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) nor the Senate Parliamentarian has analyzed an amendment from Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP clears key hurdle on Barrett's Supreme Court nomination, setting up Monday confirmation Texas and North Carolina: Democrats on the verge? Senate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus MORE (R-Texas) that is essential to winning over conservatives.

“So if you don’t know of those things before you go in, you’re sort of voting in a blind fashion,” Paul said. “I think we need more information, CBO needs to have scored the whole bill. Should we go onto a bill that we haven’t even scored?”

Paul said he would still vote “yes” on the motion to proceed if Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate Democrats hold talkathon to protest Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Trump looms over Ernst's tough reelection fight in Iowa Democratic senator votes against advancing Amy Coney Barrett nomination while wearing RBG mask MORE (R-Ky.) moves to debate clean repeal before the replacement bill. 

McConnell has been pressuring members to vote “yes” to begin debate. His argument is that they need to overcome the initial procedural hurdle if they want to debate any of their healthcare ideas.

“The only way we'll have an opportunity to consider ideas is if senators are allowed to offer and debate them. That means voting to begin the open amendment process,” McConnell said earlier Monday.