What just happened?
Republicans narrowly approved the “motion to proceed” Tuesday afternoon. Basically that’s a fancy way of saying the Senate is now officially considering legislation to repeal Obamacare.
VIDEO ABOVE: Explaining the three health care options right now
What was the vote that took place Tuesday night?
The first in what is expected to be dozens of amendments failed Tuesday, 57-43. The amendment — really a full-fledged bill — that if passed would have repealed and replaced Obamacare, unsurprisingly sank late Tuesday night.
For months GOP leaders had been crafting the proposal — the Better Care Reconciliation Act — and they had just agreed to add two new provisions to win the support of Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rob Portman, R-Ohio.
Cruz’s proposal, called the Consumer Freedom Option, would have allowed insurance companies to offer bare-bones plans as long as they also offered insurance plans that included Obamacare-mandated coverage, such as maternity care and substance abuse treatment. The plans that didn’t include the mandated coverage were expected to be cheaper options for younger, healthy people. But critics of Cruz's provision said premiums for older, sicker people would go up because there would be fewer healthier people to offset costs.
Meanwhile, Portman’s provision would have added $100 billion to a long-term stability fund in the Senate's repeal-and-replace bill. Portman’s home state expanded Medicaid under Obamacare, and he has expressed concern about offering a soft landing for people who benefited from the expansion, particularly those recovering from opioid addiction. The Ohio Republican said the provision would have helped low-income people with out-of-pocket costs as they transitioned from Medicaid to private insurance.
Because of arcane Senate rules, Tuesday night’s amendment needed 60 votes to be adopted, but there are only 52 Republicans in the Senate. Democrats made clear they would not vote to move the bill forward so even if every Republican had gotten on board, which they did not, it was never really expected to pass.
If it had passed, the provision would have essentially replaced the House bill that is being considered on the Senate floor. The House bill is not expected to be the final piece of legislation, instead it’s basically acting as a vehicle for lawmakers to put their ideas into.
So what amendment will be considered next?
The Senate is expected to vote midday Wednesday on an amendment that would create a clean repeal of the Affordable Care Act that wouldn’t take effect for two years. The delay is intended to give lawmakers time to come together on a replacement plan before people lose their health care.
But even with conservative support, the clean repeal is not likely to pass because at least three Republican senators — Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia — have all said they wouldn’t vote for a repeal without a replacement. Other lawmakers have also expressed concern.
Aren't there other amendments?
After the time allotted to senators for debate on the first two amendments — 20 hours in total — the Senate will start a vote-a-rama. The vote-a-rama is when any senator can introduce an unlimited number of amendments, and Democrats plan to take full advantage of that.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said he has 100 amendments he is planning to offer —partly as a tactic to delay the proceedings so Republicans couldn’t rush a bill through without public scrutiny.
“We’re going to need to create time on the floor in order for the people to see what the final bill is," Murphy said. "And this will be the only time we get to amend the bill.”
He said other Democratic senators also had dozens of amendments at the ready. “It’s the tip of the iceberg,” he said. None of these are likely to pass.
What will the final legislation look like?
It’s hard to tell what the end product will be, or whether it can pass. But many Republican lawmakers have started talking about a “skinny repeal.” Basically, that means a narrow bill to repeal certain parts of Obamacare, such as the individual mandate, but not all of it.
"The likely outcome is that we go through the amendment process ... at the end you end up in a situation where you vote on the lowest common denominator for passage," said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.
Via USA TODAY