Senate GOP Leaders Postpone Health Care Vote Until After July 4th

Jun 27, 2017
Originally published on June 27, 2017 5:47 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Today was a major setback for Republican efforts to overhaul health care in this country. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the Senate would not vote on its plan to dismantle the Affordable Care Act as planned.

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MITCH MCCONNELL: We will not be on the bill this week, but we're still working toward getting at least 50 people in a comfortable place.

SHAPIRO: Enough Republicans were threatening to vote against the bill if it was brought to the floor, so McConnell was forced to delay the vote until after the Fourth of July holiday. Now party leaders and the White House are scrambling to come up with a revised proposal that can pass. NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis joins us from Capitol Hill. Hi, Sue.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: So not enough votes - how did this break down?

DAVIS: You know, at least five Republicans had already come out publicly and said they would not vote for essentially a procedural motion that just allows the Senate to take up the bill. This was largely in response to the Congressional Budget Office report that came out on Monday that forecasts that 22 million fewer Americans would be insured compared to current law.

So they had opposition from conservatives saying they want to roll back more of the regulations to bring down premiums, and you had opposition from moderates saying they want to do more to protect Medicaid. Republicans met today in their weekly lunch. They came out. They decided they didn't have the votes, and they're going to try and come up with a new plan and come back at it after the holiday.

SHAPIRO: When you talk to the holdouts, what kinds of concessions or changes specifically are they looking for?

DAVIS: You know, this is the challenge that McConnell faced. For every concession you make to one senator, you might lose another. I talked to John Thune. He's a member of leadership. He's a senator from South Dakota. And he kind of talked about the tricky politics of this. This is what he had to say.

JOHN THUNE: I'm of the view that the politics of this doesn't get any easier the longer you wait. And if we can make some changes that improve the policy in a way that makes it more likely for 50 of our senators to vote for this, then this was a good judgment on behalf of the leader.

DAVIS: You know, notice his use of the word if we can make some of those changes. You know, on some things, it might be easy. There's some calls to put things like more money to combat the opioid epidemic. That's a pretty easy thing to add into the bill. On other stuff, it's going to be a lot tougher. I'll give you one good example.

Female Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska say they intend to offer an amendment that would protect Planned Parenthood from funding cuts. If you add that into the bill, you would - almost certain to lose conservatives who would not vote for it. So this is the needle that McConnell has to thread. And remember; there's only 52 Republican senators, and he can only lose two of them and still pass this bill.

SHAPIRO: Republicans seem to be under competing political pressures here. On the one hand, they have been promising for years to repeal and replace Obamacare, and their base expects it. On the other hand, the plan they're offering is very unpopular with the general public. And I'm sure they're going to hear a lot from both of those camps when they go home for the July Fourth recess. So what do they tell you about how they deal with those pressures?

DAVIS: You know, the conversation I've had with Republicans this week is that they still feel tremendous pressure to pass this. They fear that failing to do this would completely demoralize their base, would - could potentially derail their entire legislative agenda. And they're really conscious of the fact that they still have not delivered to President Trump a major legislative win since he's come into office. Today was certainly a setback, but I think the predominant view among Republicans is that McConnell is going to be able to deliver on this and that he has to to bolster the president.

SHAPIRO: And briefly, any role for Democrats to play in this debate? They're all going to vote against it.

DAVIS: You know, they are very opposed to this bill. It's getting increasingly theatrical and dramatic up here. Outside today, Planned Parenthood staged a protest with women dressed as characters from "The Handmaid's Tale" as - in opposition to cuts to Planned Parenthood. Activists tomorrow night are planning a human chain around the Capitol. Of course the big next question is the town hall meetings next week and if Republicans hold them.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Sue Davis on the Hill, thanks very much.

DAVIS: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.