Repeal-And-Replace Effort In Senate Still Dominated By Confusion
In another full day of discussion about repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, there are still no clear options on the table on which the Senate can vote.
Democrats are united in opposition to any bill that would undo President Obama's legacy on health care. Republican leaders are pinning their hopes on a last ditch effort that senators are calling "skinny repeal."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others continued to work on it all day. The goal is to offer legislation that does the minimum in terms of undoing Obamacare, as the Affordable Care Act is commonly known. That would allow Republican lawmakers to return to their home states during the August recess and say they've taken action on an issue that's been one of their key campaign promises for years.
The bill's language is not yet final or public, but as NPR's Sue Davis reports on All Things Considered, it is said to involve some combination of repealing the individual mandate, some of the taxes in the ACA, defunding Planned Parenthood for at least a period of time and allowing states to opt out of some of the minimum standards of coverage for insurance plans that the Affordable Care Act requires.
In an impromptu press conference held Thursday evening, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., along with three other Republican senators, stressed they would vote for the "skinny repeal" bill only with more assurances that the bill, if passed, would actually not become law. They want it to proceed to a conference committee, where House and Senate members would work on crafting another bill that combines each chamber's version — instead of having the Senate bill sent directly to the House floor for a vote.
Graham called the "skinny" bill "a disaster" and "a fraud."
"I'd rather get out of the way and let it collapse than have a half-ass approach where it is now our problem," Graham said.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who joined his friend Graham at the press conference, said the Republican effort to replace Obamacare deserves more time and consideration than it was being given.
"I believe one of the major problems with Obamacare is that it was rammed through Congress by Democrats without a single Republican vote," McCain said. "I believe we shouldn't make that same mistake again."
McCain added, "It's time we sat down together and came up with a piece of legislation that addresses this issue."
However, it is unlikely that if the bill makes it to conference with the House that it will involve Democratic input, if its stated goal continues to be repealing the Affordable Care Act.
Graham and McCain were joined at the press conference by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., and Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.
The strategy of supporting the "skinny repeal" is not one a lot of Republicans want to get behind. If it does become law and a "death spiral" could begin--which means that without a mandate to buy insurance, younger people who tend to be healthier will drop their insurance, keeping sicker people in the market and then premiums go up. The bill may leave in place subsidies, however.
But all day lawmakers were either unclear what would be in the bill, or suggesting that they would pass whatever it might be, simply to extend the process. From passage, the bill could go straight to the House floor for a vote, or move into a conference committee.