Lee, Moran leave leaders short of votes needed for dismantling of Obamacare
WASHINGTON – Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas declared Monday night that they would oppose the Senate Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, killing for now a 7-year-old promise to overturn President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.
The announcement by the two Republican senators left their leaders two votes short of the necessary tally to begin debate on their bill to dismantle the 2010 health law. Two other Republican senators, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan M. Collins of Maine, had already said they would not support a procedural step to begin debate.
“There are serious problems with Obamacare, and my goal remains what it has been for a long time: to repeal and replace it,” Moran said in a statement. He added that the Senate repeal bill “failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act or address health care’s rising costs.”
In his own statement, Lee said of the bill, “In addition to not repealing all of the Obamacare taxes, it doesn’t go far enough in lowering premiums for middle class families; nor does it create enough free space from the most costly Obamacare regulations.”
By jumping away from the legislation together, Moran and Lee ensured that no one would be the definitive “no” vote.
With four solid votes against the bill, Republican leaders were faced with two options: go back and try to rewrite the bill in a way that could secure 50 Republican votes, a seeming impossibility at this point, or do as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had promised and team with Democrats to draft a narrower, bipartisan measure to fix the flaws in the Affordable Care Act that both parties acknowledge.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., responded to the announcement by urging his GOP colleagues to begin anew and, this time, undertake a bipartisan effort.
“This second failure of Trumpcareisproofpositivethat the core of this bill is unworkable,” Schumer said. “Rather than repeating the same failed, partisan process yet again, Republicans should start from scratch and work with Demo-
crats on a bill that lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the markets and improves our health care system.”
The opposition from Paul and Collins was expected, so McConnell had no margin for error as he unveiled the latest version of his bill. He survived until Monday night without losing another of his members – although some of them expressed misgivings or, at the very least, uncertainty.
McConnell had wanted to move ahead with a vote this week, but was forced to abandon that plan after Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., underwent surgery last week, and the time needed for his recovery remains uncertain. That unexpected setback gave the forces that opposed the bill more time to pressure undecided senators. On Friday, the health insurance lobby, which had been largely silent during the fight, came off the sidelines to blast a key part of the latest Senate bill, saying that it was unworkable, would send premiums soaring and would cost millions of Americans their insurance.
McConnell has failed twice in recent weeks to keep his caucus together for a planned vote. He first wanted to hold a vote in late June, only to postpone it after running into opposition.
Lee, one of the most conservative members of the Senate, had championed a proposal that would allow insurers to sell lowcost, stripped-down plans – an idea that ended up being added to the latest version of McConnell’s bill. But the language added was not quite what Lee had been advocating, his office said after the bill was released.
Moran faced pressure at home about how the bill would affect Kansas, including its rural hospitals. The Kansas Hospital Association said last week that the latest version “comes up short, particularly for our most vulnerable patients.”
The news threw the effort to pass health care legislation into turmoil, with additional Republicans weighing in on Twitter about a flawed process that must take a new direction. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham, R-S.C., called for a “new approach,” while Rep. Mark R. Meadows, R-N.C., tweeted, “Time for full repeal.”
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., says GOP bill fails to repeal Obamacare, address costs.