After Senate GOP’s failure, what’s next?
Many remain committed to repealing Obamacare
WASHINGTON The GOP’s sevenyear crusade to repeal and replace Obamacare disintegrated in the wee hours of Friday morning. So now what?
Republicans were asking themselves that very question as they tried to make sense of the Senate’s stunning vote, when three GOP senators joined all the chamber’s Democrats to sink a bare-bones repeal bill. That flop followed two others earlier in the week, as Republicans failed to muster 51 votes for any bill aimed at unraveling the Affordable Care Act.
“We’re evaluating the options. That’s literally where we are right now,” said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of a key House health committee.
Here’s a look at a few of those options and how they might play out:
REPUBLICANS CAN GIVE UP ON HEALTH CARE AND MOVE TO OTHER ISSUES
That seemed to be the message from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., after Friday’s roll call was over.
“Our only regret tonight is that we didn’t achieve what we had hoped to accomplish,” McConnell said. “It’s time to move on.”
Republicans have other issues to tackle, including a must-pass defense measure, annual funding bills to keep the government open, and tax reform. Republicans need a legislative victory, and so far they have spent an exasperating seven months on health care with nothing to show for it.
So it’s no wonder that some lawmakers are eager to turn the page.
“Right now, we have very little to go home and talk about,” said Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C. “We have not delivered.”
REPUBLICANS CAN TRY AGAIN AND HOPE FOR A DIFFERENT RESULT
“It’s not a death knell,” insisted Rep. Mark Meadows, another North Carolina Republican and the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, a band of arch-conservatives. He said Republicans would “regroup and stay focused” on repealing and replacing the 2010 law.
Meadows said he is hopeful Republicans can revive some remnants of the now-moribund Senate GOP bill. Two of the most viable options, according to Meadows:
A proposal by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to allow insurance companies to offer bare-bones insurance plans as long as they also offer the more comprehensive coverage required under Obamacare.
A bill crafted by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., that would keep much of the Obamacare taxes in place but send that money to the states in the form of block grants so governors can decide how to use it.
Other Republicans echoed Meadow’s optimism and said they can not walk away from their years-long promise to unravel the Affordable Care Act.
“We can’t give up on health care,” said Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga. “It may take a dozen more times,” but the GOP will pick up the pieces and soldier on, he said.
REPUBLICANS CAN FIGHT WITH EACH OTHER ABOUT WHO IS TO BLAME FOR THE REPEAL-AND-REPLACE COLLAPSE
Recriminations were served up Friday morning, particularly from House GOP lawmakers who passed their own version of an Obamacare replacement bill in May — in a politically tough vote — only to watch in dismay as the Senate failed to follow suit.
Senate Republicans “ran out of backbone,” said Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va.
Mitch McConnell is “an abject failure” and should resign, said Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala.
What about Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who delivered the deciding “no” vote during the Senate debate?
“I guess he likes Obamacare,” said Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho.
Republicans have been consumed by infighting for much of the health care debate — with moderates battling conservatives on how far to go in repealing Obamacare and leading to Friday’s stalemate. Whether the GOP can move past those battles — or whether they will deepen — is not clear.
REPUBLICANS CAN SIT DOWN WITH DEMOCRATS AND TRY TO CRAFT A BIPARTISAN COMPROMISE
Democrats, along with a handful of moderate Republicans, said Friday’s vote should be seen as an opportunity to start from scratch with committee hearings, public debate and, yes, bipartisanship. The Senate GOP bill was crafted behind closed doors by Republican leaders, with little time for lawmakers to review it and almost no public debate.
“It is now time to return to regular order with input from all of our members — Republicans and Democrats — and bring a bill to the floor of the Senate for amendment and debate,” McCain said in a statement Friday. “I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to trust each other, stop the political gamesmanship, and put the health care needs of the American people first. We can do this.”
Senate Democrats said they were ready to work with Republicans — if the GOP would drop the effort to repeal Obamacare and work on shoring up the law. There are a number of bipartisan talks underway in the Senate, with the most immediate focus on trying to stabilize the individual insurance markets, which have been rattled by the GOP debate.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said Friday that he wanted to start with a proposal to guarantee federal subsidies to insurance companies, an Obamacare provision that helps insurers offer low-income families plans with reduced out-of-pocket costs, such as deductibles and co-pays.
Another would involve “re-insurance,” in which the federal government would subsidize insurers for costs above a certain amount.
It’s unclear how Republicans will receive those ideas. McConnell said Thursday, during a Senate floor speech, that Schumer just wanted to “throw money at insurance companies.”
“No reforms, no changes, just a multibillion-dollar Band-Aid,” he said.
But other Republicans said they had to negotiate with Democrats, and stabilizing the markets would be a good starting place.
“There’s a lot that went wrong. They should have never tried to force this on a partisan basis,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa.
Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell and Cory Gardner walk to the Senate chamber Thursday.