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First Big Vote on “Repeal and Replace” Goes Horribly Wrong

Senate

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 19: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), center, speaks to the press with U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-SD), left, and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) after the weekly Senate Republicans policy luncheon on March 19, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Senate is expected to pass a revised continuing resolution and send their edits back to the House in order to prevent a government shutdown next week, but any action in the Senate may be delayed until later in the week. (Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images)

The Senate voted narrowly yesterday to open debate on repealing Obamacare, a huge political win for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republicans who’ve promised for years to repeal it. But Republicans suffered a setback when the Senate decisively rejected a Republican proposal to repeal-and-replace former President Barack Obama’s health care law. Last night’s tally needed to reach 60 votes to overcome a parliamentary objection. Instead, the measure failed on a 43 to 57 vote. Democrats successfully killed the proposal because it lacked an official score from the Congressional Budget Office and did not meet Senate reconciliation rules.

President Donald Trump seemed undeterred by the news. “I believe now we will over the next week or two we will come up with a plan that is going to be really, really wonderful for the American people.”

Although the Senate is now moving ahead with debate, amendments and ultimately a final vote on the controversial legislation, it’s possible that they will fail to pass anything before the end of the week. Senators are expected to cast a vote on a “repeal-only” proposal later today, but that, too, is likely to fail because many Republicans, as well as all Democrats, reject repealing the health care law without a viable replacement at hand.

Republicans acknowledged that the process is far from over.

“I don’t know. Y’all were watching. It was fine,” said Senator Bob Corker (R-TN). He added, “Well, I think everybody understands this is just a first step,” when reporters pointed out that the mood on Capitol Hill among his colleagues is far from celebratory.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), did not mince words when asked about the bill’s prospects, saying it would end health care coverage for millions of Americans.

“Anyone who thinks this is over is sadly mistaken,” he said. “There are many, many Republicans who don’t like this bill, who don’t want to vote for it. They are under enormous pressure to vote for it. … Anyone who voted to move to proceed and certainly anyone who votes to send this bill to conference is virtually, certainly, voting to kick millions off health care, to make it much harder to get coverage if you have a pre-existing condition, to slash Medicaid and give a huge amount of tax cuts to the rich.”

A Republican aide said party leaders will do whatever they can to appease other holdouts. “The only goal is to get onto the bill. Nothing happens until we do, so that’s the only goal,” the aide said. “These are the moments legislatively when you get creative. We’re getting creative.”

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