Partial repeal is rejected
In early-morning vote, McCain, Murkowski, Collins oppose a “skinny” version of the bill.
WASHINGTON» The Senate rejected the “skinny repeal” health care legislation early Friday morning, leaving it unclear how Republicans will proceed in their years-long effort to overhaul Obamacare.
The legislation would have eliminated enforcement of the 2010 law’s requirement that Americans obtain insurance or pay a tax penalty, and suspended for eight years enforcing the mandate that companies employing 50 or more workers provide coverage.
The bill, which was rejected less than three hours after being introduced, would have made other changes including eliminating funding for preventive health care, prohibiting Medicaid beneficiaries from being reimbursed for Planned Parenthood services for one year, and increasing the limit on contributions to tax-exempt health savings accounts for three years.
Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine vote against the skinny repeal.
The expected vote came after House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., provided assurances that he was willing to use the proposal as a
basis for negotiating a broader rollback of the law, and would not move to quickly approve the bill in its current form.
Ryan made the promise after three Republican senators — Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, McCain and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — threatened to sink the bill if they did not get a guarantee that any bill passed by the Senate this week would lead to conference negotiations with the House rather than a straight up-or-down vote.
The tense negotiations between the two chambers highlighted the extent to which Republicans could not reach a consensus on how to rewrite President Barack Obama’s 2010 health-care law, and the degree to which Republicans are repeating many of the same backroom maneuvers they criticized Democrats for using seven years ago to approve the ACA.
Democrats countered that Republicans were pushing through a completely partisan bill in the same manner they did in 2010. “But you’re repeating what you claim are the same mistakes,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said.
Republicans earlier defeated a motion offered by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., to send the bill back to committee for further consideration.
And while GOP senators insisted the bill they were considering would not make it into law without further changes, if enacted it would have made sweeping changes to health coverage as well as medical treatment in the United States.
After weeks of secretive negotiations, McConnell unveiled his draft of the “skinny repeal” only a couple of hours before the cliffhanger vote early Friday.
Shortly after it was introduced, the Congressional Budget Office issued an estimate finding that 16 million people would lose coverage and that premiums would rise about 20 percent a year if Republicans enacted the pared-down bill.
Sara Rosenbaum, a health law and policy professor at George Washington University, said the bill would have made “enormous” changes to private and public insurance.
Translating their pledge to repeal what they derisively call Obamacare into a law has proved embarrassingly difficult for Republicans.
First, the House took an extra six weeks to pass its version of the bill in early May. Most Republicans agreed that the measure was flawed — Trump later called it “mean” for how it would deny insurance to 23 million people — and hoped that the Senate would craft a better bill.
But McConnell’s closeddoor negotiations ended in gridlock, leaving him to pull together this “skinny” repeal of the ACA, just to keep alive negotiations with the House to come up with a different plan later this summer.
“I’m not going to tell people back in South Carolina that this product actually replaces Obamacare, because it does not; it is a fraud,” Graham said at a Thursday evening news conference with McCain and Johnson at his side.
McCain, who was diagnosed with brain cancer last week and returned this week calling for a bipartisan approach, was the critical vote on McConnell’s “skinny” proposal, which had no Democratic support.