WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced late Monday that the Senate will give up on its bill to replace Obamacare and vote instead on legislation to repeal the law within two years.
McConnell made the decision after it became clear he could not win enough support from his own GOP senators to pass the latest version of a replacement bill.
Two Republican senators announced Monday night that they would vote against the revised Senate bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, leaving leaders without enough support to bring the bill to the floor.
McConnell responded that he will push the Senate to pass a bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act – with a two-year delay – as a substitute.
"Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be succesful," the Kentucky Republican said in a statement. "So, in the coming days, the Senate will vote to take up the House bill with the first amendment in order being what a majority of the Senate has already supported in 2015 and that was vetoed by then-President Obama: a repeal of Obamacare with a two-year delay to provide for a stable transition period to a patient-centered health care system that gives Americans access to quality, affordable care."
Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, both tweeted that they would not support bringing the Senate bill to the floor, a procedural motion that requires 50 votes. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has long been an opponent of the bill because it leaves portions of the Affordable Care Act in place, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced last week that she would vote against it.
My full statement opposing this version of BCRA: pic.twitter.com/CUq4Kibe0I— Jerry Moran (@JerryMoran) July 18, 2017
With only 52 Republicans in the Senate and unanimous Democratic opposition, any more than two GOP defections would sink the bill.
President Trump tweeted "Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare" and encouraged lawmakers to start from a "clean slate," saying "Dems will join in!"
Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 18, 2017
However, most senators have opposed the idea of repealing Obamacare without approving a replacement plan at the same time. They fear that taking that extreme step would leave too many of their constituents in limbo with no way to afford medical coverage.
But some conservatives have pushed for a return to legislation President Obama vetoed in 2016 that would have simply repealed the law, creating an opportunity to build a new system in its place.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said late Monday that it's time for Republicans to give up on their bill and work with Democrats to find bipartisan consensus on a new one.
“This second failure of Trumpcare is proof positive that 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 Democrats on a bill that lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the markets and improves our health care system."
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who is recovering at home this week from surgery to remove a blood clot from above his left eye, also said it's time for leaders to craft a new bill with input from senators of both parties.
"One of the major problems with Obamacare was that it was written on a strict party-line basis and driven through Congress without a single Republican vote," McCain said in a statement. "As this law continues to crumble in Arizona and states across the country, we must not repeat the original mistakes that led to Obamacare’s failure. The Congress must now return to regular order, hold hearings, receive input from members of both parties, and heed the recommendations of our nation's governors so that we can produce a bill that finally provides Americans with access to quality and affordable health care."
Some Republican governors were among the fiercest critics of the GOP health care bill, which they feared would cut Medicaid too much and leave states scrambling to provide care for low-income residents.
McConnell had to scrap an earlier planned vote before the July Fourth recess and redrafted the bill, hoping to lure enough support to pass it with no Democratic votes. He had warned that if the new bill could not pass, he might have to simply turn to Democrats to work on repairing the existing law.
In a statement, Lee said, “In addition to not repealing all of the Obamacare taxes, (the bill) 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.”
Senate leaders unveiled a revised bill last week that would allow the sale of cheap, bare-bones insurance plans in an attempt to draw enough conservative support to pass the measure to replace Obamacare.
At the same time, the bill tried to appeal to moderates by increasing funding to fight opioid addiction from $2 billion in the original bill to $45 billion in the latest draft.
However, those changes failed to generate much enthusiasm among a group of about 10 Republicans who had also been reluctant to support the earlier version.
The House narrowly approved a health care bill in May to replace the Affordable Care Act — a key campaign promise made by Republicans in last fall's elections. But senators quickly rejected the House legislation in favor of crafting their own bill.
Trump initially celebrated passage of the House bill, but he later denounced it as "mean" and urged the Senate to make it more "generous."
The Congressional Budget Office estimated in May that the House-passed bill would leave 23 million more Americans without insurance by 2026. The original Senate health care bill would have increased the number of Americans without health insurance 22 million by 2026, according to the CBO. The non-partisan office was scheduled to release a score of the revised Senate bill early this week.
The Senate has struggled with two competing ideological mandates. For conservatives, the primary goal has been to repeal Obamacare; the mandates it established for individuals to obtain and insurers to provide policies; and the taxes that provided subsidies for those who could not afford it. But moderates blanched at the potential for reducing coverage for poor and elderly constituents, and some opposed the bill’s language stripping Planned Parenthood of federal funding.
Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana floated an idea last week to leave the Obamacare taxes in place but turn the money over to the states and let them structure their own systems.
Graham raised the idea again in a series of tweets Monday night.
It's time we empower those closest to people to work toward better health care that fits needs of their citizens.https://t.co/2S2mVa80zn— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) July 18, 2017
Democrats immediately began celebrating the latest setback for a bill they have vowed to fight tooth and nail.
I'm delighted to see the disastrous Republican health care plan won't succeed – a victory for the millions who stood up and fought back.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) July 18, 2017
Dead bill for now, but not yet mission accomplished. Need to sleep w/ one eye open for rest of the summer and fall. https://t.co/grIcTRL4na— Rep. Jared Huffman (@JaredHuffman) July 18, 2017
Constant vigilance- this isn't over yet. #Trumpcare— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) July 18, 2017
But some Democrats urged caution, noting that Republicans have been trying to repeal the bill since it passed in 2010 and are unlikely to just give up.
Contributing: Erin Kelly, USA TODAY