US Republican Senators Concede Defeat Again On Obamacare

US Senate chamber

The US Republican Senators admitted defeat in their latest attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), even as they aired the panel’s details at a raucous hearing before the Finance Committee.

The panel’s chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) told reporters that he did not think the measure would come up for a floor vote by the end of the week, after which point Republicans lose the budget authority they need to pass a health-care bill by a simple majority. A short time later, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced she would not support the legislation.

Both developments followed in quick succession a forecast by the Congressional Budget Office, which predicted that the bill would reduce insurance coverage by “millions” by 2026, as well as lower the federal deficit by at least the $133 billion of an earlier House bill.

Of at least four Republican senators seen as crucial to the bill’s success, none indicated Monday that they were any closer to backing the proposal after its sponsors, Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy (La.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), rewrote portions of it in an effort to win their support.

Opposition to the bill

Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), who is one of two GOP senators against the bill, reiterated his opposition to the updated measure, and the other lawmaker, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), has objected to it on the grounds that there has been no bipartisan outreach.

In his opening remarks on the Senate floor Monday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) thanked Cassidy and Graham for their work, but he did not commit to a vote. Nor did he offer any timeline under which the legislation might be considered by the full Senate.

Instead, McConnell’s comments had an air of finality. He thanked other lawmakers and committees of jurisdiction, as one might do at the official conclusion of a legislative push.

“I’d like to thank each of these committees, their chairs, their members and their staff for their hard work to provide the American people with a better way than Obamacare and its years of failures,” McConnell said.

The legislation’s sponsors have rewritten the bill to deliver more money to Alaska and Maine than the original version. Two GOP senators in those states — Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) — have expressed concerns, but not yet declared how they would vote on the measure.

The contentious debate erupted into public view Monday afternoon as protesters chanted so loudly at the hearing’s outset that the panel’s chairman, Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), was forced to temporarily adjourn as police officers arrested and removed several of them.

“No cuts to Medicaid! Save our liberty!” screamed one woman in a wheelchair as she was wheeled out.

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