Senate Republicans have decided to not vote on their latest ObamaCare repeal legislation, signaling a collapse in their last-ditch effort to kill off President Obama’s signature law.
“It would appear not,” Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) told reporters when asked about the prospect of a vote this week.
Senate aides confirmed the decision.
The legislation sponsored by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) would dismantle ObamaCare’s insurance subsidy program and Medicaid expansion and convert their funding into block grants to states.
Senate Republicans said Tuesday that they will continue to work on health-care reform, even though they will likely miss the Sept. 30 deadline for the special reconciliation bill that would allow them pass legislation with a simple majority vote.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said earlier in the day that the Graham-Cassidy proposal to turn ObamaCare into state block grants was “a good idea” but said that lawmakers need more time to “socialize” it through public advocacy.
Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), one of three Republicans to publicly say they opposed the measure, urged colleagues to resume bipartisan negotiations in the Senate Health Committee between Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.).
“I think the best route is for us to resume the hearings in the HELP [Health, Education, Labor and Pensions] Committee that we were doing before we were diverted by Graham-Cassidy,” Collins told reporters.
She said “it would be helpful if the vice president outlined his support for resuming the hearings in the HELP Committee and the negotiations that were making such good progress,” she said ahead of a Republican lunch with Vice President Mike Pence.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said Senate Republicans should “continue to negotiate until we get it solved.”
But Lankford does not want the health-care debate combined with the upcoming tax-reform debate.
Instead, he said that colleagues should continue to negotiate behind the scenes on replacing ObamaCare while a projected $1.5 trillion tax package takes center stage.
“We need to keep the two separate but both have to keep going,” he said. “You can’t not do health-care issues when everybody around the country are facing double-digit [premium] increases and hospitals are merging,” he said.
“Keep working behind the scenes until we get it resolved and ready for the floor.”
There had been talk about including ObamaCare repeal in a new budget reconciliation measure that has been planned for tax reform. That would allow both ObamaCare repeal and tax reform to be brought up under special rues that would prevent a filibuster.
But that would also put tax reform at risk by pairing the issue with health care, and a number of key Republicans, including Cornyn and House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), voiced opposition to that plan on Tuesday.