Health care state of play: Repeal effort dead -- for now
Phil Mattingly, CNN | 7/19/2017, 11:16 a.m.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate Republicans' quest to do something on health care continues Wednesday with a lunch at the White House and a buildup to a vote next week on an effort to repeal Obamacare without a replacement set.
Here the current state of play:
Republican senators will head to the White House for lunch with the President and Vice President. Let the last-ditch lobbying begin.
Keep an eye on senators who have already come out as "no" votes to see if there's any sense there could be a shift (Republican aides don't expect this at all), and follow undecided senators who may join their colleagues as "no" votes (GOP aides do expect this.)
When will the Senate hold the procedural vote to take up Obamacare repeal?
"Early next week," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor last night.
Why next week?
That's what the President requested. McConnell said this on the floor when he announced the schedule last night. Why? There's some sense on the Hill that Trump is going to give a final push to try and save it, according to sources familiar with the timing. That's, in part, why senators are heading to the White House on Wednesday. Expect more effort in the days ahead.
A number of senators were agitating to get this vote over with and move on this week, with some saying the vote could come as early Wednesday. Those senators aren't thrilled this is going to linger for another five to seven days.
Trump previewed the lunch in tweets on Wednesday morning.
"I will be having lunch at the White House today with Republican Senators concerning healthcare. They MUST keep their promise to America!" Trump tweeted. He followed up with, "The Republicans never discuss how good their healthcare bill is, & it will get even better at lunchtime.The Dems scream death as OCare dies!"
Is the repeal effort officially dead?
Yes, at least for now.
They don't have the votes for repeal and replace. They don't have the votes for replace-only. They don't have the votes to pass the procedural motion to get to a vote on repeal and replace. They don't have the votes to pass procedural motion to get to vote on repeal. So what else is there? Senate GOP staffers, almost to a person, say it's done.
But, and given the several phoenix-esque moments of this process, it's worth keeping an eye on this: leadership is continuing to talk to the members who have come out as no votes, and administration officials have been working on those on the fence.
Reality check on that
Moving senators with clear, publicly stated opposition back into the "yes" column is ... very unlikely.
Reality check overall
As blame is cast around and fingers are pointed in every direction, all with some degree of merit, it's a point that explains the failure more than anything else:
The ideological and philosophical chasm inside the Senate Republican conference as to what the government's role should be in health care is extremely deep.
Irreconcilable? "There are more weeks than not when it seems that way," a Republican health care lobbyist responded when asked. "And this is definitely one of those weeks."
So why are they holding the vote at all?
It's time to put everyone on record. That was essentially the takeaway of rank-and-file senators after Tuesday's closed-door GOP conference meeting. Enough senators in the conference, citing years of campaign promises and genuine overall frustration with the fact this looks dead, want to have a vote.
As Sen. John Thune, the No. 3 Republican in the chamber, told me yesterday: "I think what the leader has concluded is that a lot of have been in his ear and want to vote." So, barring some late shift, they're going to vote.
Is something bipartisan going to happen now?
Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, after things went south Tuesday, released a statement saying regardless of how the vote goes, his panel will hold hearings on stabilizing the individual market in the coming weeks. Worth noting -- Alexander, who is both well-liked and well-respected on both sides of the aisle -- has been open to working on stabilization proposals on a bipartisan basis from the start.
Meanwhile, an aide told CNN Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, began reaching out to the former governors in the chamber (of which Alexander is one) Tuesday morning to see if he could kick-start talks on a bipartisan effort. It's in its earliest stages, and Manchin has tried in vain to launch things like this before, but worth keeping an eye on.
A very important note: Conservative members (and the outside groups that support them) want no part of an Obamacare "fix." We're still a long way from bipartisanship ripening, if it happens at all.