(Bloomberg) — Republicans in Congress were reeling Tuesday from the failure of their latest Affordable Care Act change bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act bill, as President Donald Trump said he’s willing to let Obamacare fail and called on the Senate to change one of its central rules.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the chamber will vote on a straight repeal — with a two-year delay — a plan that likely faces even steeper hurdles than his replacement bill.
Trump said on Twitter that the Senate, controlled by Republicans 52-48, should eliminate the 60-vote threshold for advancing bills that don’t use a special fast-track procedure.
“Even parts of full Repeal need 60. 8 Dems control Senate. Crazy!” the president said on Twitter. Trump also said he was willing to “let Obamacare fail” before moving forward on a replacement.
House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters he would like to see “the Senate move on something.” The House passed its own version of a replacement bill in May.
“I’m worried that Obamacare will continue to stand and the law will continue to collapse and hurt people in the process,” said Ryan of Wisconsin.
The inability to deliver on seven years of GOP promises to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would be the biggest failure yet for Trump and Republicans since they won control of Congress and the White House.
McConnell’s move came after two more Republican senators announced their opposition to the Republican leader’s plan, which he drafted largely in secret. The defections by Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas, in addition to previous opposition by GOP Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan Collins of Maine, were enough to sink the measure.
Lee and Moran said in statements they wouldn’t support McConnell’s bill because it didn’t go far enough to address the rising cost of health care.
When talking about legislation for changing the Affordable Care Act, Republican congressional leaders generally do not define the term “Obamacare.” Up till now, the Republican bills that have received active consideration, including the Better Care bill, would repeal some Affordable Care Act taxes but would not repeal much of the Affordable Care Act.
“We should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy,” Moran said in a statement on Twitter. He criticized the way the health care bill was written through a “closed-door process” and said the Senate must “start fresh” with open hearings and debate.
Lee said the latest version didn’t repeal enough Obamacare taxes and regulations or lower premiums.
Republicans are expected to discuss how to pick up the pieces on Tuesday, when they gather for their regular policy lunch, which is often attended by Vice President Mike Pence. Several senators have made clear that they want GOP leaders to pursue an alternative that would require working with Democrats.
Others embraced the repeal-first strategy.
“I think that’s a prudent step,” Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, said on Newsradio 102.9 in Little Rock. Even if that fails, he said, lawmakers need to keep working on the issue of health care. “It’s too important to too many Arkansans to simply walk away from it.”
The defections of Moran and Lee, two Tea Party-backed senators, is a stunning blow to McConnell and Trump, who campaigned on a promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which the president repeatedly called a disaster.
“Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!” Trump said on Twitter on Monday night.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio (Photo: Jordan)
That won’t be easy. While Congress last year passed a repeal bill, they did so knowing it would be vetoed by President Barack Obama. This year, now that it could become law, such a proposal has drawn little support among Republican senators, with the exception of those in its most conservative wing.