Less than 24 hours after President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ditched their embattled plan to simultaneously repeal and replace Obamacare in favor of just a repeal, three Republican senators announced their plans to vote against the repeal-only bill.
With only 52 Republicans in the 100-member Senate, losing any three could sink the legislation. But these defectors share more than just party affiliation: They’re all women, and they were all excluded from McConnell’s all-male working group that helped create the last Republican healthcare plan.
In short order, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia announced Monday that they wouldn’t go along with the repeal proposal.
“I did not come to Washington to hurt people,” Capito said in a statement.
In 2015, the Republican-led House and Senate passed a bill repealing large parts of Obamacare, but Obama vetoed it. McConnell had hoped to pass the same bill now, with a Republican in the White House. But though Murkowski and Capito voted for the bill in 2015, this time they’re both opposed.
The current bill would provide a two-year transition period for insurance companies and consumers to prepare for the repeal. According to the Congress Budget Office’s analysis, 18 million people would lose their health insurance in the first year without a replacement healthcare plan. By 2026, 32 million fewer people would have health insurance.
Still, the current bill would only repeal parts of Obamacare. The language removes healthcare insurance subsidies and Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion but keeps the insurance regulations that conservatives argue drive up premium prices.
Repealing those regulations would require 60 votes, instead of 50 votes like the current bill under consideration. And Republicans can’t count on bipartisan support to repeal Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment.
So far, however, Republican defections have undone each attempt at repealing and replacing Obamacare, despite seven years of unified opposition to Obama’s healthcare law. Murkowski, Collins, and Capito have been especially reluctant to embrace the recent Trumpcare proposals.
As for the most recent effort, Murkowski and Collins both expressed concerns that the two-year transition period would wreak havoc in the insurance markets and be even more painful than the Trumpcare bill.
“I do not think it’s constructive to repeal a law that is so interwoven within our healthcare system without having a replacement plan in place,” Collins said in a statement.
After urging Republicans for months to pass either pass a new healthcare plan or just kill Obamacare and worry about the rest later, Trump told reporters at the White House on Tuesday: “[w]e’ll let Obamacare fail and then the Democrats are going to come to us and say how do we fix it?”
But it’s unclear if Republicans in the House or the Senate are willing to just wait and see. Repealing Obamacare was considered critical to amassing savings for passing a tax cut later this year, and many members of Congress are worried about giving up the effort after expending so much of Trump’s early political capital.
“We’re hopeful that the Senate can take the pause it needs to move forward on this so we can get something done,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said at a press conference Tuesday.
“This is not dead,” Rep. Richard Hudson of North Carolina told Politico.