Last week, the 115th Congress got down to business with Senate Republicans making no secret of their priority of repealing Obamacare. They laid the groundwork by introducing a bill that would allow Congress to dismantle the Affordable Healthcare Act with one simple majority vote — and without subjecting themselves to a Democratic filibuster. And on Wednesday night, the Senate passed their budget blueprint by a 51-48 vote after Democrats staged a “highly unusual protest,” which led to a “marathon” session. Now, a simple majority vote could replace Obamacare without much warning.
Neither the Senate GOP nor the Trump administration have provided many details on the definition of “Trumpcare” or what an Obamacare appeal would mean for millions of Americans who could instantly lose healthcare benefits. During Donald Trump’s rambling news conference on Wednesday, he said he would announce his own plan with a repeal happening “essentially simultaneously.” Trump hopes to do that soon, after the confirmation of his desired secretary of health and human services (Representative Tom Price from Georgia).
The bill that was passed is procedural, so doesn’t do much now but will ease the GOP path whenever the mystery Obamacare replacement surfaces. So, a lot of vagueness remains along with an imminent threat, which isn’t the greatest path to achieving unity. According to CNN, the Senate interplay was theatrical, and Bernie Sanders led the late-night protests:
Senators were bleary-eyed as they walked quickly to the exits, wrapping up the final vote a little before 1:30 a.m.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the top Democrat who led the late-night fight against a repeal, said the protest could be a sign of things to come as the fight stretches on.
“I think it’s important for this country to know this was not a usual thing, this is a day which lays the groundwork for 30 million people to be thrown off their health insurance,” Sanders said. “And if that happens, many of these people will die.”
Also notably, former GOP presidential candidate and Senator Rand Paul vocally opposed the bill (because there’s no replacement in hand). In addition, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein was not present for the vote.
Republicans are moving swiftly, even before Trump takes office, to repeal Obama’s namesake, which 20 million Americans rely on for healthcare. The protests by Democrats (and Rand Paul) ultimately couldn’t stop the budget blueprint from passing, but the opposition is at least showing that the GOP won’t be allowed to move forward on healthcare without a fight.