Senate Republicans remain publicly pessimistic about their prospects of repealing and replacing Obamacare this year with several raising concerns this week about the party’s central campaign promise even as one of their leaders vowed to pass such a bill this summer.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) made the most direct prediction on Thursday, telling a news station in his home state that “I don’t see a comprehensive health care plan this year.” Earlier in the week, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) suggested to home-state reporters that lawmakers might shift to a shorter-term plan that would keep insurance markets working, on the heels of negative comments from Iowa GOP Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst.
The Senate is drafting its own legislation after the House narrowly passed its proposal to repeal and replace parts of the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama’s signature 2010 health care reform law. But the House bill is widely regarded as too conservative to pass the Senate, making this week’s downbeat comments from Republicans both a realistic acknowledgment of their political challenges and a means to lower expectations ahead of their return to Washington.
“It’s unlikely that we will get a health care deal, which means that most of my time has been spent trying to figure out solutions to Iowa losing all of its insurers,” Burr told North Carolina’s WXII 12 News, describing the House-passed American Health Care Act as “not a good plan” and “dead on arrival” in the Senate.
Johnson took a more diplomatic approach, telling local reporters that a “two-part process” on Obamacare would likely start with a “market stabilization” proposal before any repeal attempt, according to the Madison State Journal. He also acknowledged that his is “probably a minority view in the Republican Senate right now.”
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), in fact, offered a significantly sunnier prediction of Obamacare’s demise this week, telling his state’s KFYO radio station that “we’ll get it done by the end of July at the latest.”
Senate Republicans face a quickly shrinking window to finish work on Obamacare repeal before the fall, when they stand to lose the procedural power of the budget reconciliation process, which allows them to pass a health care bill that cannot be filibustered by Democrats. Even now, they can only afford to lose two of their 52 votes, with Vice President Mike Pence voting to break a 50-50 tie.
The House would then have to vote to pass the Senate’s version of the bill, or the two bills would have to be reconciled in conference talks, followed by another vote in each chamber for final passage. legislation.
Senate GOP leaders have vowed to move ahead with some form of health care legislation, although Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has acknowledged that the votes needed to pass such legislation aren’t there yet. Grassley on Tuesday acknowledged another difficulty the party faces, telling The Associated Press in his home state that any full-scale Obamacare repeal would require “60 votes, and we don’t have 60 votes at this point.”
Ernst offered her own reality check after an appearance alongside Grassley, describing reconciliation as a way to “tinker around the edges” of the health care law. She also declined to predict that any Senate-passed Obamacare plan would win favor in the House, according to the AP, saying only that “we will be working with the House.”