All 48 Democrats and two Republicans — Senators Rand Paul (KY) and Susan Collins (ME) — firmly oppose the Senate bill to repeal Obamacare. That means if Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republicans lose one more vote, the bill will fail.
Before McConnell can even schedule a vote on the bill itself, he needs to round up 50 votes for a technical measure called a “motion to proceed.”
One positive sign for McConnell was that Ron Johnson (R-WI), who opposed a motion to proceed on an earlier version of the bill, announced he would support the motion to proceed this time.
Things have changed.
In an interview with his local Fox affiliate, WLUK, Johnson said he had changed his mind and declared that the motion to proceed was now “in jeopardy.” (Collins and Paul will also vote against the motion to proceed.)
Johnson said he was upset by reports that McConnell told moderate members of the Republican caucus “don’t worry about some of the Medicaid reforms” because “they are scheduled so far in the future they will never take effect.”
Johnson was referring to this report in the Washington Post on Thursday:
Here’s what McConnell has told several hesitant senators (including Portman and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.): The bill’s deepest Medicaid cuts are far into the future, and they’ll never go into effect anyway.
“He’s trying to sell the pragmatists like Portman, like Capito on ‘the CPI-U will never happen,’” a GOP lobbyist and former Hill staffer told me.
“CPI-U” is a measure of inflation that grows slower than medical inflation. Beginning in 2025, the Senate bill would limit Medicaid growth at the “CPI-U” level. In this way, the bill would not only repeal Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid but cut it relative to the law prior to Obamacare’s passage. Over time, federal money would cover less and less of each state’s costs, which likely force states to cover even fewer people.
This reduction in spending that is favored by conservatives like Johnson but worries moderates in states with large Medicaid populations like Capito, who represents West Virginia.
In any event, Johnson is not pleased with McConnell’s tactics.
Also complicating matters for McConnell is news that John McCain “underwent surgery to remove a blood clot above his left eye.” The surgery was reportedly successful but McCain will be resting in Arizona for the next week to recover. That means that McConnell, even if he keeps Johnson’s vote, will definitely not have 50 votes until McCain returns.
McCain has been critical of the legislation but was not expected to oppose the motion to proceed.
UPDATE (10:22 P.M.): McConnell has formally delayed the health care vote, which was planned for next week, citing McCain’s recovery.
— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) July 16, 2017