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Senate Republicans are in denial that repeal without replacement is dead

Despite not having the votes, McConnell still wants to push straight Obamacare repeal to the floor.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 18. CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 18. CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) vowed to move forward on a Obamacare repeal-without-replacement vote “in the very near future” Tuesday afternoon. McConnell said this to a group of reporters after three Senate Republicans announced Tuesday morning that they would vote no to even start debate for a repeal plan. That is enough to block the bill from moving forward.

Even so, Republican leaders are thinking of scheduling the procedural vote as early as tomorrow morning, senior Republican aides told Axios. The three senate no’s at the moment are being encouraged to at least start debate.

Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said they would oppose a Senate procedural motion that would set up a vote on repeal-only legislation; this is called a motion to proceed.

“I did not come to Washington to hurt people,” Capito said in a statement.

These three Senate Republicans were excluded from the health working group that was responsible for writing the Obamacare replacement plan.

The repeal-only plan is the Senate leadership’s last-ditch effort to repeal current law. Replacement plan efforts died when four senators said they would vote no on the revised Better Care Reconciliation Act, a replacement plan that took two months to craft.

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McConnell is looking to revive a repeal-only bill that passed the House and Senate in 2015 but was vetoed by then-President Barack Obama. This bill would repeal the insurance mandate and non-group marketplace subsidies but keep Obamacare coverage protections, like requiring insurance companies to provide essential health benefits. Under this bill, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that 32 million people would lose health coverage.

Before Senate leadership came to the mic for their weekly press conference, Senator Rand Paul took questions from a group of reporters and said that whoever voted for the aforementioned repeal-only bill was obligated to vote for it now. Capito and Murkowski did vote yes on the repeal-only bill when they knew Obama would veto it.

During the Tuesday press conference, a reporter told McConnell what he likely already knew: that he didn’t have enough votes for repeal-only plan right now. If that vote fails, would Republicans finally work with Democrats, a reporter asked McConnell?

“We will have to see what happens. We demonstrated that Republicans by themselves are not prepared at this particular point to do a replacement,” McConnell replied. “And that doesn’t mean problems all go away. And you’ll have to look at our committee chairmen, and their ranking members. My suspicion is there will be hearings about the crisis that we have and we will have to see what the way forward is.”

An hour before the press conference, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee, said he would start holding hearings on the insurance market.