Health care bill collapse leaves divided GOP at crossroads
The implosion of the Senate Republican health care bill leaves a divided GOP with its flagship legislative priority in tatters and confronts a wounded President Donald Trump and congressional leaders with dicey decisions about addressing their perhaps unattainable seven-year-old promise of repealing President Barack Obama’s law.
Two GOP senators — Utah’s Mike Lee and Jerry Moran of Kansas — sealed the measure’s doom late Monday when each announced they would vote “no” in an initial, critical vote that had been expected as soon as next week.
Their startling, tandem announcement meant that at least four of the 52 GOP senators were ready to block the measure — two more than Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had to spare in the face of a wall of Democratic opposition.
“Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful,” McConnell said in a late evening statement that essentially waved a white flag.
It was the second stinging setback on the issue in three weeks for McConnell, whose reputation as a legislative mastermind has been marred as he’s failed to unite his chamber’s Republicans behind a health overhaul package that’s highlighted jagged divides between conservatives and moderates.
In late June, he abandoned an initial package after he lacked enough GOP support to pass.
The episode has also been jarring for Trump, whose intermittent lobbying and nebulous, often contradictory descriptions of what he’s wanted have shown he has limited clout with senators.
That despite a determination by Trump, McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to demonstrate that a GOP running the White House and Congress can govern effectively.
Now, McConnell said, the Senate would vote on a measure the GOP-run Congress approved in 2015, only to be vetoed by Obama — a bill repealing much of Obama’s statute, with a two-year delay designed to give lawmakers time to enact a replacement.
Trump embraced that idea last month after an initial version of McConnell’s bill collapsed due under Republican divisions, and did so again late Monday.
McConnell’s revised version aimed to satisfy both camps, by incorporating language by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas allowing insurers to sell skimpy plans alongside more robust ones, and by adding tens of billions of dollars to treat opioid addiction and to defray consumer costs. His efforts did not achieve the intended result.