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The Senate GOP’s best shot at a health care bill after other ideas fail

July 26, 2017 at 6:40 PM EDT
Republicans found themselves no closer to passing a plan to repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday, after two key GOP ideas failed by large margins in the Senate. Lisa Desjardins looks at their options and the opposition.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Republicans faced another challenge today in their efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

Lisa Desjardins has more.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, Majority Leader: This certainly won’t be easy. Hardly anything in this process has been.

LISA DESJARDINS: The whirlwind process ticked on in the Senate today, but Republicans found themselves no closer to passing a plan to repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act.

Two key GOP ideas failed by significant margins in the past 24 hours. First, last night, nine Republicans voted against the latest Senate plan, including Senator Ted Cruz’s proposal plan to allow insurance plans with almost no regulations.

Then today came an idea backed by conservatives like Kentucky senator Rand Paul, a straight repeal in two years with no replacement attached. Paul said Obamacare’s relations mean options are far too limited.

SEN. RAND PAUL, R-Ky.: Do you think that the — that every American should get to choose, that every American gets to choose whether they have insurance or not, and what kind of insurance they have? This is what it’s about. It’s a freedom of choice.

LISA DESJARDINS: But his straight repeal lost 45-55. Seven Republican senators rejected the idea.

Republican leaders instead focused on a longer game, reminding their party of its pledge to repeal Obamacare.

SEN. JOHN THUNE, R-S.D.: We made a commitment to the American people. It’s time to make good on that promise.

LISA DESJARDINS: And it now appears the Senate GOP’s best shot at a bill is what’s known as skinny repeal, repealing the individual mandate, and not much else. That is expected to be one of the last votes this week, and so begins the jockeying for what goes in it.

South Carolina Lindsey Graham wants more block grants for states in the plan.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R- S.C.: And if it can’t do that, I’m not voting for it.

LISA DESJARDINS: All this a day after the Senate barely voted to begin debate.

Today, President Trump singled out Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski for her vote against starting debate yesterday, tweeting that she “really let the Republicans and our country down yesterday. Too bad.”

Murkowski defended her vote to The Alaska Dispatch News, saying, “I didn’t think that we were ready for the debate, and I have said pretty consistently that process really does matter.”

As it does to Democrats, like Oregon’s Ron Wyden, calling for fixes, rather than repeal for Obamacare.

SEN. RON WYDEN, D-Ore.: We all agree that the Affordable Care Act is not perfect. We’re going to take steps immediately to stabilize the private insurance market.

LISA DESJARDINS: The clock is now ticking on the 20 hours of debate required for any bill. After that, any amendments not already passed can be tacked on in a process known as vote-a-rama.

Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn:

SEN. JOHN CORNYN, R-Texas: We will conclude one way or another on either late Thursday or Friday morning.

LISA DESJARDINS: That means the Senate, and Americans watching, have two days to weigh in on this critical draft about the future of health care.

For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Lisa Desjardins.

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