If the Senate’s latest Obamacare repeal efforts collapse this week, Republicans will “go back to the drawing board” and try again, Senate GOP conference chairman John Thune said on Sunday.
As Republicans’ efforts to undo the 2010 health care law hit seemingly insurmountable roadblocks, members of the party have floated working with Democrats to stabilize insurance markets or moving on to other priorities. But Thune, a Republican senator from South Dakota, insisted Sunday that the GOP is committed to dismantling the law that was the signature achievement of former President Barack Obama.
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“What will happen is, if and when that were to occur, we’ll go back to the drawing board and get a bill up,” Thune told “Fox News Sunday.” “We are going to vote to repeal and replace Obamacare. It’s not a question of ‘if,’ it’s a question of ‘when.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to hold a critical vote Tuesday to begin debate on Obamacare repeal, but it appears unlikely to succeed – and it remains unclear which health care bill the Senate will even consider.
McConnell (R-Ky.) had been pushing a measure that was similar to a bill approved by the House earlier this year that would roll back rules for insurers and cut hundreds of billions of dollars from the Medicaid program for the poor and disabled. But last week, he signaled the Senate could instead vote on a 2015 bill that repeals major pieces of Obamacare without a replacement plan.
Both bills would likely fall short of the 50 votes required for passage. The replacement option had drawn fire from all sides of the squabbling Republican conference. Two GOP senators, Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), said they would oppose a vote to open debate on the 2015 bill — and with the expected absence of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, that measure, too, would likely fail.
Many in the party are refusing to give up the idea that Republicans can find some way to repeal Obamacare after promising to do so for the last seven years.
President Donald Trump last week invited Republican senators to the White House to pressure them to repeal the law, a key pledge of his during the 2016 campaign. He suggested lawmakers should not leave Washington for their annual August recess without first sending repeal legislation to his desk. “I intend to keep my promise, and I know you will, too,” Trump told them at the meeting. Separately, Vice President Mike Pence held a roundtable discussion with conservative groups to plot out how to pressure GOP holdouts to support a repeal bill.
Meanwhile, in the absence of internal consensus on health reform, other GOP lawmakers are leaning toward a more bipartisan approach.
Collins, whose opposition to the Senate’s repeal and replace bill helped derail it last month, said in an interview on “Face the Nation” Sunday that she would like to go back to committee and work with members from both sides of the aisle to focus on stabilizing insurance markets.
“That would allow us to hear from expert witnesses, to get input from actuaries and governors and advocacy groups and health care providers, and most important, from members of both sides of the aisle, Republicans as well as Democrats,” she said.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the Senate’s health committee chairman, last week said his panel would begin holding hearings on how to stabilize the insurance markets.
But other lawmakers said the two parties are too ideologically divided on health care. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said on “Face the Nation” that he opposes Democrats’ push to keep Medicaid as an open-ended entitlement — one in which the federal government is obliged to match the state’s spending on the program — and that they want to maintain the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that Americans buy insurance, which he called “the most hated part of Obamacare.”
“Sen. Schumer’s been pretty clear up from the beginning…that we should expect no cooperation from him,” Barrasso said, referring to Democratic leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).