For a second straight day, the full Senate voted down a leading GOP plan to make major changes in the Obama health law, as Republicans continued to struggle with how best to forge a plan that can win approval in the Senate later this week, with growing talk that the GOP Senators may try to pass a bill that does very little, in hopes of starting Congressional negotiations on a final deal, or even to have the House just accept a ‘skinny’ Senate plan.
“We’re working our way to the end – which is uncertain,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA).
The latest plan to be rejected by the Senate was similar to a bill which had won Congressional approval in 2015, but had been vetoed by President Barack Obama, what Republicans labeled a “clean repeal” – even though it was nothing close to an actual repeal of the Obama health law.
“It is just trying to peel back Obamacare,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) argued in vain on the Senate floor, as he acknowledged the ‘clean repeal’ is “only a partial repeal.”
But while this plan was approved two years ago, it failed this time, mustering only 45 votes, as seven GOP Senators broke ranks to doom the measure. Only 43 Republicans had backed the first big GOP amendment on Tuesday.
Of those seven Republican “No” votes, only Collins had voted against the plan in December of 2015; the other six were all for it, back when an Obama veto was a certainty.
Meanwhile, more and more Republican energy was being focused on an extremely limited health care bill – labeled ‘Skinny repeal’ – as a way to pass a bill through the Senate later this week, which would then lead to negotiations between the House and Senate in the month of August.
“Skinny repeal” would involve zeroing out the tax penalties for not having health insurance under the individual and employer mandates, and repealing the medical device tax.
No other provisions would be touched.
“I could live with that,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), as a number of GOP Senators embraced the idea, seeing it as a way to avoid defeat in the Senate, and giving time for more negotiations on a final health care plan.
“What you’re really voting on is trying to keep the discussions alive between the House and Senate,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who expressed frustration that the Senate might have to use the ‘skinny solution’ as a fall back.
“It’s disappointing that we find ourselves where we are,” Corker told a group of reporters.
Democrats denounced the idea.
“Skinny repeal should be called ‘gut it and run,'” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), as critics said the plan would not reduce premiums for those in the individual insurance market.
Over in the House, some Republicans weren’t exactly thrilled with the idea of a ‘skinny’ bill, but said the Senate must keep the process moving.
“My feeling is, I’m glad I’m not a Senator,” said Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) with a laugh.