Repub­li­can ‘Oba­macare’ re­peal reel­ing af­ter Se­nate de­feat

The vote was 49-51 with three Repub­li­cans join­ing all Democrats in vot­ing ‘no’

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD - BY ER­ICA WERNER AND ALAN FRAM

Deal­ing a se­ri­ous blow to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s agenda, the Se­nate early Fri­day re­jected a mea­sure to re­peal parts of for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health-care law af­ter a night of high sus­pense in the U.S. Capi­tol.

Un­able to pass even a so­called “skinny re­peal,” it was un­clear if Se­nate Repub­li­cans could ad­vance any health bill de­spite seven years of prom­ises to re­peal “Oba­macare.”

“This is clearly a dis­ap­point­ing mo­ment,” said Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky. “I re­gret that our ef­forts were not enough, this time.”

“It’s time to move on,” he said. The vote was 49-51 with three Repub­li­cans join­ing all Democrats in vot­ing ‘no.’

McCon­nell put the health bill on hold and an­nounced that the Se­nate would move onto other leg­is­la­tion next week.

Trump re­sponded on Twit­ter: “3 Repub­li­cans and 48 Democrats let the Amer­i­can peo­ple down. As I said from the be­gin­ning, let Oba­maCare im­plode, then deal. Watch!”

A key vote to de­feat the mea­sure was cast by Sen. John Mc­Cain, R-Ariz., who re­turned to the Se­nate this week af­ter re­ceiv­ing a di­ag­no­sis of brain can­cer. In an im­pas­sioned speech the day he re­turned, Mc­Cain had called for bi­par­ti­san­ship on ma­jor is­sues of na­tional con­cern, and a re­turn to the “reg­u­lar or­der” of leg­is­lat­ing by com­mit­tee.

Two other Repub­li­cans - Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Su­san Collins of Maine — joined Mc­Cain and all Democrats to re­ject the amend­ment, which would have re­pealed a man­date that most in­di­vid­u­als get health in­sur­ance and would have sus­pended a re­quire­ment that large com­pa­nies pro­vide cov­er­age to their em­ploy­ees. It would have also sus­pended a tax on med­i­cal de­vices and de­nied fund­ing to Planned Par­ent­hood for a year.

On Twit­ter, Mc­Cain said the re­peal bill “fell short of our prom­ise to re­peal & re­place Oba­macare w/ mean­ing­ful re­form,” adding, “I hope we can rely on hu­mil­ity, co-op­er­a­tion & de­pen­dence on each other to bet­ter serve the peo­ple who elected us.”

The amend­ment was a last re­sort for Se­nate Repub­li­cans to pass some­thing — any­thing — to trig­ger ne­go­ti­a­tions with the House.

“It’s time to turn the page,” said Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles Schumer of New York. “We are not cel­e­brat­ing. We are re­lieved.”

Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Tom Price said in a state­ment that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion would pur­sue its health care goals through reg­u­la­tion. “This ef­fort will con­tinue,” Price said. But in­sur­ers, hos­pi­tals, doc­tors, and con­sumer groups are press­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion to guar­an­tee bil­lions of dol­lars in dis­puted sub­si­dies to help sta­bi­lize in­sur­ance mar­kets around the coun­try.

Buoyed by a sig­nal from House Speaker Paul Ryan, McCon­nell had in­tro­duced a pared-down health care bill late Thurs­day that he hoped would keep alive Repub­li­can am­bi­tions to re­peal “Oba­macare.”

McCon­nell called his mea­sure the Health Care Free­dom Act. It was not in­tended to be­come law, but to open a path for a HouseSe­nate con­fer­ence com­mit­tee to try to work out com­pre­hen­sive leg­is­la­tion Congress could pass and send to Trump.

The Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice said the amend­ment would have in­creased the num­ber of unin­sured peo­ple by 16 mil­lion, the same prob­lem that vexed all the “re­peal and re­place” mea­sures Repub­li­cans have of­fered. Obama’s law ex­tended cov­er­age to some 20 mil­lion peo­ple, re­duc­ing the na­tion’s unin­sured rate to a his­toric low of around 9 per cent.

Still, Ryan, R-Wis., had seem­ingly opened a path for McCon­nell ear­lier Thurs­day by sig­nal­ing a will­ing­ness to ne­go­ti­ate a more com­pre­hen­sive bill with the Se­nate. Some Repub­li­can sen­a­tors had been con­cerned that the House would sim­ply pass McCon­nell’s “skinny bill” and send it to Trump. That would have sent a shock wave through health in­sur­ance mar­kets, spik­ing pre­mi­ums.

AP PHOTO

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell of Ken­tucky leaves the Se­nate cham­ber on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton.

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