Senate Republicans face a do-or-die vote Tuesday to launch a new Obamacare repeal effort, as confusion reigns over what path President Donald Trump’s party will take — and whether they even have the votes to move forward.
On Monday, Trump strongly warned Republicans that they must pass health care reform, taking his party to task and bluntly declaring that “Obamacare is death.”
Several measures have been considered but then collapsed in recent weeks.
The latest Republican plan is a bid to dismantle the 2010 Affordable Care Act pushed by Trump’s predecessor, but delay the actual implementation of the repeal to allow time for a viable replacement to be crafted.
That bill is highly unlikely to pass in its current form, but the Senate leadership has stressed the importance of at least voting on it in order for changes to then be introduced.
The approach was not flying with some Republicans.
“I don’t have a clue what we’ll be voting on,” said Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican who has long criticized the health care reform process.
Senator Lisa Murkowski, who has opposed various earlier versions of the legislation, sounded unsure about what bill was being considered Tuesday, or whether she would vote to begin debate on it.
“I would like to know more,” she told reporters.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to lay out the path forward Tuesday at a closed-door Republican lunch.
He and other Senate Republican leaders acknowledge they do not know whether there is sufficient support to even open debate on the new plan, a sign of Republican division about the impact such reforms might have on millions of American families.
With less than three weeks before the Senate is to leave Washington for its already-delayed summer recess, Trump took to his bully pulpit and demanded his party get in line.
“Any senator that votes against starting debate is telling America that you are fine with the Obamacare nightmare,” Trump said at the White House, where several “victims” of Obamacare stood as a backdrop to his remarks.
“Obamacare is death,” Trump added. “It’s gone. And now it’s up to us to get great health care for the American people.”
Trump has repeatedly grilled fellow Republicans for not following through on their — and his — campaign pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare, something he said he aimed to do immediately once in office in January.
Republicans hold 52 of the Senate’s 100 seats. With all Democrats opposed, Trump can afford just two defectors.