(Bloomberg) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s new proposal to simply repeal the Affordable Care Act appears to be dead less than 24 hours after he dropped his replacement plan for lack of support among fellow Republicans.
(Related: 4 ACA Change Paths That Just Got More Popular)
GOP Sens. Susan Collins, Shelley Moore Capito and Lisa Murkowski said Tuesday they’ll oppose a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. McConnell said late Monday the Senate would vote on a repeal with a two-year delay to give Congress time to agree on a replacement, but he could afford to lose no more than two Republican votes to advance the measure.
“We’ll let Obamacare fail” and then Democrats may want to agree on a replacement, President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House. “I’m not going to own it.”
McConnell told reporters the Senate will vote on a repeal bill “in the near future.” If that vote fails, “That doesn’t mean the problems all go away,” he said, adding that he expects Republican and Democratic committee leaders to hold hearings on what to do. “We’ll have to see what the way forward is.”
But Collins of Maine told reporters that repealing the law now and then hoping for a replacement “would create great anxiety for individuals who rely on the ACA.” She said she would oppose bringing a repeal bill up for debate. “I believe it would cause the insurance markets to go into turmoil.”
Capito of West Virginia said she would refuse to take up a repeal plan without an adequate replacement. “I did not come to Washington to hurt people,” she said in a statement.
Murkowski of Alaska also said she would refuse to take up a repeal-alone measure.
“There’s enough chaos and uncertainty already and this would just contribute to it,” Murkowski told reporters. She said she wants a fix that would stabilize individual insurance markets and leave Medicaid unchanged, and that lawmakers should work on a bipartisan measure in committee.
On Monday, opposition from four Republicans sank McConnell’s repeal and replacement legislation, which the majority leader drafted mostly in secret. 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.
Republicans discussed how to pick up the pieces at their regular policy lunch Tuesday. Several senators have made clear that they want GOP leaders to pursue an alternative that would require working with Democrats.
Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander, chairman of the health committee, said the panel will hold hearings in the next few weeks on how to stabilize individual health-insurance markets.
Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch said it may be time to put aside an Affordable Care Act repeal and, if McConnell decides to do so, Congress should consider short-term measures to stabilize insurance markets. Hatch of Utah said it may be difficult to pay for reinsurance funds and cost reduction subsidies to stabilize markets.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York called on Republicans “to take us up on our offer of working together to improve the health care system rather than sabotage it.”
If the Trump administration withholds cost-sharing subsidies to insurers covering lower-income people, as the president has threatened to do, “they will pay a huge political price. He’s actually hurting his own presidency and his own party by threatening to hurt so many people,” Schumer said.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. (Photo: Paul)