US Republican efforts to reform health care hit the skids Thursday when three senators threatened to oppose a partial repeal of Obamacare unless House leaders pledged to negotiate further, leaving a vote on the measure in doubt.
The sudden announcement by Senators Lindsey Graham, Ron Johnson and John McCain threw their party’s effort to overhaul Barack Obama’s health care reforms into turmoil and highlighted the tensions and infighting over the path forward.
The Senate had been due to hold a critical vote on the measure later Thursday, but that vote was now in doubt.
The trio stood opposed to the plan that appeared most likely to be considered later Thursday or early Friday: a measure known as a “skinny repeal,” which would remove some Obamacare taxes and the requirement that individuals have health insurance, but keep significant provisions of the law intact.
The idea was that the “skinny repeal” would merely be a vehicle to get the Senate and House of Representatives to a so-called “conference” — where they would then negotiate a more comprehensive bill.
But senators got nervous that the House might turn around and simply pass the Senate bill and send it to Trump for his signature.
“There’s an increasing concern on my part and others that what the house will do is take whatever we pass, the so-called skinny bill, not take it to conference, go directly to the house floor, vote on it and that goes to the president’s desk with the argument this is better than doing nothing,” Graham told reporters.
“I’m not going to vote for a bill that is terrible policy and horrible politics just because we have to get something done,” added Graham, who called the Senate legislation a fraud and “a disaster as a policy.”
Republicans were struggling for a third straight day with how to forge consensus on health care reform, with the chamber’s leaders increasingly intent on ramming through the partial repeal.
As the 100-member Senate was bracing for a marathon session carrying into the wee hours of Friday without a break, most lawmakers still had not seen the final bill they will be voting on, even though it now stands at the heart of their seven-year promise to overhaul the Affordable Care Act put in place under Obama.
Senators appeared desperate for any news of what Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was crafting on the fly, just hours before what is expected to be a chaotic series of votes.
They have been prodded and cajoled and strong-armed by President Donald Trump, who campaigned relentlessly on ending the Obamacare “nightmare.”
“Come on Republican Senators, you can do it on Healthcare,” he nudged in a Thursday morning tweet.
“After 7 years, this is your chance to shine! Don’t let the American people down!”
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