WASHINGTON — Tuesday’s Senate vote on health care will be a turning point in the GOP's long and difficult effort to fulfill their campaign promise to undo Obamacare but the final outcome appears likely to end up as a “skinny” repeal that disposes of just a few components of the Affordable Care Act.
The first key vote will take place at some point this afternoon to open debate on the health care measure. If that “motion to proceed” passes, the Senate will then move on to debate and vote on a variety of approaches to the bill, beginning with a vote on the 2015 version of the repeal of Obamacare, according to two Senate sources. That vote is expected to fail.
After that, the Senate will move on to a vote on the current replacement bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, with the addition of an amendment from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that allows the sale of catastrophic plans and an amendment by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, that would add $100 billion in additional spending on Medicaid.
But the BCRA amendment is likely to need 60 votes because neither the Cruz nor the Portman amendment have been scored by the Congressional Budget Office, meaning it’s likely to fail because it would need Democratic votes.
The plan after those two votes, according to sources, is for senators to proceed to votes on a series of amendments to create what leadership has called a “skinny” repeal with the goal of eliminating Obamacare's individual mandate penalty, employer mandate penalty and the tax on medical devices.
The Senate would then go to conference with the House of Representatives where they would work out a final bill. Both chambers would then have to vote on the reconciled bill.
Senator John McCain’s, R-Ariz., dramatic return to the Senate for the vote after having been recently diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor, is sure to put more pressure on nervous Republicans who have been opposed or reluctant to commit to support the Republican plan.
The administration is predicting victory. Marc Short, who is Vice President Mike Pence’s top legislative affairs aide, said Tuesday morning that McCain will push the vote over the finish line.
“But whether he’s the 50th or the 51st vote, “ Short said on Fox Business News, “we’re excited to have him back.”
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., announced that he supports this plan and would vote 'yes' on the motion to proceed Tuesday.