Unhappy senators complain about healthcare process

Greg Nash

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.

{mosads}“I don’t have a clue what we’re gonna be voting on,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (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 Murkowski (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 Portman (R-Ohio) simply said “ask leadership.”

Sen. Rand Paul (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 Cruz (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 McConnell (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.

Tags Lisa Murkowski Mitch McConnell Rand Paul Rob Portman Ron Johnson Ted Cruz

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