The Senate adopted a procedural motion on Tuesday which now affords Republicans the opportunity to dismantle Obamacare. It was a close vote, with Vice President Mike Pence being the tie-breaker. Only two Republicans voted against the motion Senators Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska). All 46 Democrats and both independents in the Senate opposed it.

The next step is a floor debate on the legislation.  At this point no one knows what this bill will look like, but there are a few possible options:

  • They could go for a full repeal.
  • A bill that includes the “consumer freedom amendment” that Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee originally advocated for, which includes a request from Sen. Rob Portman for $100 billion in additional Medicaid funding. That would require 60 votes to pass.
  • McConnell’s original bill that he pulled when too many Republicans opposed it.
  • A “skinnier” repeal bill that repeals Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates.

Unfortunately for Democrats, the GOP will not be successful in their repeal of Obamacare, despite Mitch McConnell’s craven showmanship. I say unfortunately, because if Republicans were to go for a full repeal or a repeal/replacement that guts Medicaid, tossing millions of their voters off of their health insurance, it would lead to a rout by the Dems in 2018 and ensure they regain control of both the House and Senate.

It’s the position Republicans have placed themselves in. After seven years of calling for the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, they have to thread an impossible needle. Their congenitally confused voting bloc have come to depend on Obamacare – flawed as it is. By moving ahead with this motion to proceed, Senators are playing a strange game. They are hoping to appear as if they did their best to take away the coverage their constituencies do not want taken away. Then when they fail to pass the repeal (replace), their supporters will be a) relieved they still have their healthcare and b) grateful that their representatives fought so hard to take it away. It’s a mindbender.

Last week, former House Speaker John Boehner told a private audience in Las Vegas, that the GOP’s chances at repealing Obama’s signature legislation were nil.

“Here we are, seven months into this year, and yet they’ve not passed this bill,” said Boehner. “Now, they’re never — they’re not going to repeal and replace Obamacare. It’s been around too long. And the American people have gotten accustomed to it. Governors have gotten accustomed to this Medicaid expansion, and so trying to pull it back is really not going to work.”

To move ahead with repeal/replace, McConnell will need at least 50 votes – with Vice President Mike Pence being the tie-breaker. That’s not going to happen. Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska will not vote for it….and maybe one more maverick.

Adding to the drama to, what well could be, the GOP’s last stand on health care, Senator John McCain flew in to attend the vote. McCain, as we all know, is currently battling brain cancer. He voted yes on the motion to proceed – to a standing ovation – but as a man facing serious health issues of his own, he might not be particularly enthusiastic about the prospect of signing off on a bill that would leave millions of Americans without health care.

As for President Trump, well, he needs a victory – at any cost. Since the collapse of the Better Care Reconciliation act, he has been using his platform to bully Republicans into passing a bill he can sign. He’ll do anything to shift the conversation away from Russia. On Monday at the 2017 National Scout Jamboree, the President said if Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price didn’t deliver votes for the GOP’s health care bill, he might have to fire him.

Trump was pleased on Tuesday at the motion’s passing, calling it a big step at a White House News Conference.

“I’m very happy to announce that with zero of the Democrats’ votes, the motion to proceed on health care has moved past and now we move forward toward truly great health care for the American people. We look forward to that. This was a big step,” he said.

It’s a no-win situation for Republicans. They either go ahead with their promise to repeal or potentially lose big in 2018. The truth is, their opposition to Obamacare was just a way of opposing Obama himself. They never had any plan to replace it. Ideologically, they don’t believe that Americans have the right to health care, but now that they have it – how can they take it away? For Senators like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski it’s an easy decision. They are not obliged to hand Trump a win as he poses no threat to them. And John McCain…why the hell would he vote for it? His LAST vote?

So, for all Mitch McConnell’s antics – repeal is an impossible dream. Again…too bad. With 36 per cent of the public still solidly in the President’s corner, the only thing that might shake their confidence is if their lives were put at risk.

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