Senate Republicans are expected to release another version of their “repeal and replace” health care legislation this week, with a vote to come as early as next week.
The previous version of the bill, introduced last month, failed to garner enough support. Faced with growing opposition among members of his own party, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) postponed the vote.
White House legislative affairs director Marc Short says he is “confident” that the Senate will pass a version of the bill before its August recess, but admits the GOP plan is unpopular with Americans due to the Left’s “more organized” messaging on the topic.
Vice President Mike Pence, who will cast the tie-breaking vote if McConnell can get 50 votes, says “we literally are days, or maybe just weeks away” from passing repeal and replace legislation.
As it stands, 10 GOP senators oppose the legislation, and at least twelve are undecided. Republicans are increasingly forming into two categories:
• Those who want to work with Democrats to find a solution
• Those who want to pass a straight repeal and work on legislation later
Trump and Pence fall into the second category. “If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!” tweeted Trump on June 30th.
“The President has made it very clear: we believe that if they can’t pass this carefully crafted repeal-and-replace bill [where] we do those two things simultaneously, we ought to just repeal only and have enough time built into that legislation to craft replacement legislation in a way that’s orderly and allows states to adjust to different changes to Medicaid in a maybe three-year or four-year window,” said Pence during a recent interview with Rush Limbaugh.
Pence has also endorsed a “freedom policy” measure being promoted by Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) that would allow insurance companies to sell any kind of healthcare plan they want – as long as they offer at least one ACA plan.
Democrats are searching for allies in their effort to derail the GOP-backed healthcare legislation, and they are now courting Republican governors who expanded Medicaid in their states under the ACA. This includes John Kasich of Ohio, Brain Sandoval of Nevada, and Doug Ducey of Arizona.
New York Senator Charles Schumer (D) has called for cooperation between parties. “It’s time to move on from the failing, Republican-only approach and start over.”
Areas where both parties could potentially agree include a short-term extension of the federal subsidies that help lower-income families afford insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs.
“Congress, in my view, could pass that immediately and it would make a big difference,” says Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). “Because the number one thing private insurance plans and everyone on [the exchanges] want is certainty.”
Other Democrats are pushing for a government-run single-payer system, something that would further divide the two parties. Big surprise here: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is on board and plans to introduce a single-payer bill soon.
The ongoing health care debate also threatens Trump’s tax reform plans.
McConnell wants to use the reconciliation process to pass legislation on health care and tax reform without Democratic support, but Senate laws allow only once such maneuver at a time.
This means tax reform is essentially paralyzed until the healthcare debate is solved.