As we noted earlier this afternoon in an update to Sen. Appel’s post, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing for an Obamacare repeal vote even without being assured he can get to 50 votes to give Vice President Mike Pence a chance at breaking a tie.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Republicans will try to move forward with their plan to repeal ObamaCare next week, even as they appear short of the needed votes to pass the proposal.
“For the information of all senators, at the request of the President [Trump] and Vice President [Pence] and after consulting with our members, we will have the vote on the motion to proceed to the ObamaCare repeal bill early next week,” McConnell said from the Senate floor on Tuesday night.
The Senate is expected to vote on whether or not to take up the House-passed healthcare bill, which is being used for any action in the upper chamber. If they are successful, McConnell would offer the ObamaCare repeal proposal as an amendment to that legislation.
But the push to vote comes as GOP leadership appears short of the simple majority needed to even open debate on a healthcare bill—much less repeal ObamaCare.
A major takeaway from this would seem to be that McConnell feels comfortable that he has the 49 Republican Senators not named Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and Shelley Moore Capito in favor of the repeal. After all, there were 52 votes in favor of the repeal when it was sent to President Obama’s desk in 2015 – and Murkowski and Capito were among them. Now, the three have publicly said they won’t support the repeal.
This is now officially high-stakes stuff, perhaps even existential-stakes stuff for McConnell. He might be able to call this vote and not get to 50, and then let pressure build on the holdouts in his caucus for another vote. But there will be pressure the opposite way as well, and if he starts losing members of his caucus for a repeal things could go very badly for him – at that point McConnell, who is already somewhat distrusted by the conservatives in the GOP, could be stuck between moderates like Murkowski who are angry at being forced into a vise on the Obamacare repeal without a replacement bill readily available, and conservatives who will allege that this vote is just another sham intended to bamboozle conservatives into allegiance with the GOP leadership without actually delivering the goods.
He has to get to 50 votes.
And Capito, Collins and Murkowski – or at least one of the three – will have to come off their public positions and take one for the team. If they decide to drive a hard bargain and get a fat helping of pork in return for the vote, so be it. The Senate simply cannot fail to repeal Obamacare.
Judgment day is coming. For McConnell and the Senate GOP caucus alike.