As previously reported, Republican Senator John McCain returned to Congress (following his brain cancer diagnosis) on Tuesday for the gateway Obamacare repeal decision. That is to say, Trump’s bonkers health care press conference has been followed up with the Senate’s procedural vote — a “motion to proceed” that required 50 votes to pass — which was held to determine whether (or not) to open up the GOP health care bill for debate.
Clearly, every vote mattered in this crucial step, which has seen several significant stumbling blocks on the way. And McCain cast the final senatorial “aye” vote, which prompted Mike Pence to cast a tie-breaker vote in favor of proceeding, 50-51. This signals a temporary victory for the GOP, and in response, Ted Cruz merrily tweeted an NBA analogy to Willis Reed’ 1970 inspirational basket for the New York Knicks.
Naturally, McCain was also treated to a standing ovation upon his return.
A standing ovation for McCain https://t.co/ZDRfAM2FgO
— Meg Wagner (@megwagner) July 25, 2017
Yet in the end (at least where this step is concerned), the importance of McCain’s vote would have been lessened without a few GOP swing votes — Dean Heller and Shelly Capito being key — that helped achieve the requisite 50. Capito issued a statement on Twitter.
From here, senators will start to hash the specifics of the replacement, which would start with voting on the 2015 Obamacare repeal version. This is where the process could break down. However, it’s possible that things will proceed, and the Better Care Reconciliation Act (with Cruz’s proposed amendment to pave the way for catastrophic plan sales) will come up for a vote. Another amendment, courtesy of Senator Rob Portman, would soften the bill’s blow to Medicaid by opening up $100 billion in funding.
So, where does the GOP go from here in their quest to pass their own health care bill? Naturally, muddied waters prevail, and the latest plan floated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is the so-called “skinny repeal.” No one’s quite sure what this means yet, but it almost certainly involves a repeal of the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, and possibly the employer mandate as well. If this skinny repeal passes, this would at least function — in the GOP’s eyes — as a partial fulfillment of their lengthy promise (and unending struggle) to repeal Obamacare.