Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) seemed to declare defeat over his efforts to pass the Senate’s controversial health care bill on Monday night after two more Republican senators said they would not support it.
“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 statement. He continued to say the Senate would take up an earlier House bill and vote for “a repeal of Obamacare with a two-year delay to provide for a stable transition period to a patient-centered healthcare system.”
While various media outlets noted that it was highly unlikely a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would pass, McConnell’s move likely amounted to a challenge to colleagues who had deemed his repeal-and-replace program not conservative enough.
“The answer he came up with and then articulated in a 90-word written statement was essentially a dare,” the Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan wrote. “McConnell practically challenged conservative critics of the bill to vote against moving the process ahead. How? By publicly dangling in front of them what they have said they wanted if the current effort falls apart: a so-called clean repeal of the law known as Obamacare, with a two-year delay to come up with a replacement.”
“The GOP leader is going to force his caucus to go on the record on health care,” Politico’s Burgess Everett and Jennifer Haberkorn wrote.
The announcement came just hours after Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) said they would not vote for a “motion to proceed” on the Senate’s bill to replace the ACA, joining Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Republicans could lose only two votes if the bill had any hope of passing. More than a half-dozen other Republican senators also expressed “serious concerns” over the legislation.
Former President Barack Obama vetoed a similar piece of legislation in 2016 that was passed by the Republican-led legislature the previous year. President Donald Trump had said he would prefer a full repeal-and-replace package but has also noted on Twitter that he was open to other pathways to overturn Obama’s signature law.
Responding to the news of the Senate bill’s demise, Trump on Monday called on Republicans to vote for an outright repeal of Obamacare, urging lawmakers to “start from a clean slate” while noting that he believed Democrats would “join in.”
Any proposals for a so-called “clean repeal” of the ACA ― meaning one unattached to an immediate replacement plan ― have been unpopular in both parties, and it would likely take 60 votes in the Senate.
It’s unclear when McConnell plans to hold a vote for the repeal-and-replace-later strategy, but the Senate is expected to remain in session until Aug. 11.