Key senator backs 'skinny' ObamaCare repeal

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanNot a pretty picture: Money laundering and America's art market Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire Senators holding behind-the-scenes talks on breaking coronavirus package stalemate MORE (R-Ohio) on Thursday said he would back a "skinny" ObamaCare repeal bill, another sign of growing momentum for a fall-back healthcare option in the Senate. 

Portman said he was backing the bill as a way to start a conference with the House, which approved a broader ObamaCare repeal-and-replace legislation.

Portman is a key vote.

Republicans can only afford two defections on their legislation and get it through the chamber. Winning 50 votes would allow Vice President Pence to break a tie.

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GOP leaders have not revealed their scaled-down measure, but it is expected that it would repeal the employer and individual mandates from ObamaCare.

In another key provision to win conservative support, it would also block federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion services.

The skinny bill could also cut ObamaCare’s prevention and public health fund, while adding money for community health centers, sources said.

It would not cut Medicaid, which has been a concern for Portman and other centrist Republicans.

However, by allowing the Senate to enter a conference with the House, it could lead to a bill that does. The House measure would end federal funding for Medicaid's expansion by 2020.

If the Senate does pass a bill, both chambers would have to approve what ever emerges from the House-Senate conference. 

Alternatively, the House could also approve the Senate's skinny bill in such a situation, though this would fall short of the hopes many conservatives have for a full repeal of ObamaCare. 

It's not clear when the Senate will get to a final vote. 

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSkepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal GOP expects Senate to be in session next week without coronavirus deal House Republicans introduce legislation to give states 0 million for elections MORE (R-Mo.) said a vote was possible on Thursday night, but it is also possible it could be pushed to Friday.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's (R-Calif.) office has warned House lawmakers that they should not immediately depart Washington on Friday in case the Senate does approve an ObamaCare repeal bill.

Defunding Planned Parenthood could be challenged by Senate Democrats, who could argue such a step doesn’t meet the strict guidelines for reconciliation — the fast-track budget maneuver Republicans are using to repeal ObamaCare because it avoids a Democratic filibuster.

Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCoronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority From a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOn The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns MORE (R-Alaska) might vote against the measure if it includes the Planned Parenthood language, as they have previously expressed concerns over defunding the women's healthcare organization. 

But Republicans could afford those two defections if the rest of their conference holds together, and Portman's support is a key ingredient.