Acknowledging that Senate Republicans may not be able to pass their ObamaCare repeal legislation, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is warning that action will then have to be taken to stabilize insurance markets, The Hill reports.
“If my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement, then some kind of action with regard to private health insurance markets must occur,” McConnell said at a Rotary Club meeting in Kentucky on Thursday, according to multiple reports.
Republicans are trying to move legislation through the Senate that would repeal and replace ObamaCare, but they face opposition from within their own party. McConnell is using fast-track budget rules for the legislation that prevent a filibuster from Democrats.
If the legislation is put aside, Republicans would need to negotiate a deal with Democrats on stabilizing insurance markets. McConnell reiterated on Thursday that taking “no action is not an alternative”.
Republicans have campaigned for years on repealing and replacing ObamaCare, arguing the Affordable Care Act is “failing” and in a “death spiral” and insisting the law is not fixable. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer touted McConnell’s comments, saying the Kentucky Republican “opened the door to bipartisan solutions”.
“It’s encouraging that Senator McConnell today acknowledged that the issues with the exchanges are fixable. As we’ve said time and time again, Democrats are eager to work with Republicans to stabilize the markets and improve the law. At the top of the list should be ensuring cost-sharing payments are permanent, which will protect health care for millions,” Schumer said.
Democrats and critics have also seized on a politically damaging Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis, which predicted that under the legislation an additional 22 million Americans would become uninsured over a decade.
Republican leadership had hoped to vote on a healthcare bill last month, but delayed the move as nine GOP senators came out against their legislation. With a 52-seat majority, leadership can only afford to lose two senators and still let Vice President Pence break a tie.
Republican have faced a wave of pressure over the July Fourth recess to oppose the legislation, as they are set to return to Washington on Monday without an agreement on the path forward. Senator Jerry Moran, who opposes the Senate plan, said there isn’t a “significant consensus” on how to fix healthcare during a packed town hall on Thursday.
“It’s almost impossible to try to solve when you’re trying to do it with 51 votes in the United States Senate, in which there is not significant consensus on what the end result ought to be,” Moran said.
GOP Senators Pat Toomey and Ted Cruz hinted separately on Wednesday that they don’t expect Republicans to vote next week. Congress is scheduled to be in town for only three weeks before leaving for the August recess, though leadership is under pressure to delay or cancel that break if progress isn’t made by then on top issues, including healthcare.
Republicans have spent months locked in negotiations, despite senators initially wanting to clear a repeal bill in the spring. The focus on healthcare comes as the GOP legislative agenda is months behind schedule. Lawmakers still need to raise the debt ceiling, get a deal on funding the government, set up tax reform and move several pieces of major policy legislation.