Senate Republicans have chosen Tuesday afternoon to proceed to floor debate on their efforts to rewrite health care policy, with Vice President Mike Pence sever the tie.
But some hours later, the Senate conclusively rejected a Republican proposal to repeal-and-replace Obamacare, an indication of the disarray anticipated enveloping Capitol Hill as GOP leaders work to find a strategy their conference can agree to.
Wednesday morning, floor debate on the legislation to change the Affordable Care Act will continue, even though there are not any promises the votes are there to ultimately pass it — and it is not clear what a final bill will look like.
But little may go with the drama of Tuesday’s vote on the motion to advance when Sen. John McCain came back from Arizona to applause from fellow senators to cast what would be a crucial vote for the Republicans. Two GOP senators — Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski — sided with all Democrats in opposition, meaning all lingering Republicans and Pence were needed for the motion to pass.
Emotions were high all mid-day — as the vote started, protesters in the Senate gallery shouted “kill the bill” and “shame, shame, shame!”
The vote emerged as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and President Donald Trump dared their fellow Republicans to block their seven-year campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Senators late Tuesday cast their first vote on what could be many amendments deemed to it.
This first vote settled a measure that joined a previous Senate proposal called the Better Care Reconciliation Act, and that was turned down by some Republican senators with $100 billion in more money for people on Medicaid desired by moderate Republicans. And a proposal from conservative Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to allow bare-bones health insurance plans.
Democrats hauled successfully to kill the amendment, which was possible because the Congressional Budget Office had not formally scored it and therefore did not meet the complicated getting back together rules that the Senate is employing to consider the bill.
Republicans needed 60 votes to keep the amendment alive. It died on a 43 to 57 vote.
The vote arrived after a Senate clerk was obligated to read the text of the amendment aloud in the Senate chamber, all part of the delaying tactics Democrats using to express their overall dissatisfaction with the bill.
On Wednesday, senators are supposed to cast a vote on a “repeal-only” proposal. It too is anticipated to beat because of many Republicans, as well as all Democrats, reject repealing without a replacement set in motion.