Mitch McConnell began the healthcare debate of the Senate with a task that seems to be impossible: reconcile the differences between conservative members of the Senate who want to undo Obamacare and the moderate members who are unsure of what to make out of the fact that millions of American citizens will lose their health insurance.
Now, he has given up. On Monday night, the Republican healthcare bill died as 4 senators disapproved of the bill. Republican Senators Mike Lee and Jerry Moran said they will oppose any key procedural step in bringing the bill to the floor. Lee and Moran joined GOP Senators Rand Paul and Susan Collins in opposing this motion.
At least half a dozen remained undecided as well. There was no progress for senators to provide a bill that is better than Obamacare even when two months were given for planning and backroom negotiations.
However, the true reason why the proposed bill died was because the Republican Party lacked coherent policy vision.
Conservatives wanted to take down each aspect of Obamacare regardless of the consequences. As for moderates, they were skittish especially when the passing of a plan would result in millions and millions of people losing their health coverage. From the ideological spectrum, both ends struggled to agree.
Faced with this reality, an announcement was made by McConnell on Monday night regarding his plan to push a vote for a bill that can fully repeal Obamacare. This and a delay of 2 years for the Congress to formulate a new plan on replacing it.
It’s still unclear whether that bill will get 50 votes, the number it needs to pass. The hopes of GOP for any achievement on healthcare are dimming rapidly.
According to the report of Politico, President Donald Trump was at a dinner discussing the strategy for the GOP bill when Moran and Lee announced their intention in opposing it. This blindsided the White House.
Right after that announcement was made, there were Republicans that called for a conference. They were thinking of abandoning the current track to work with a bipartisan approach.
This was why McConnell scrambled to attempt a replace-later and repeal-only strategy. This may be a more attractive option for members who are leaning to the conservative side. As for analysts and experts, they think that the Republican healthcare bill is already dead. This means that one of the biggest promises of the Republicans for the last 7 years remains unfulfilled.
Lee and Moran are considered to be the nails in the coffin of the BCRA as it now faces an uncertain future even after defections and multiple revisions.
McConnell is finding himself stuck. Moderates do not like the fact that the bill cuts to Medicaid. What's more, it projects large coverage losses. For now, it seems that a workable compromise is near impossible. Any attempt done to win one side will inevitably leave the other wanting to jump off the boat.