By Misha Euceph
WASHINGTON— Many on both sides of the aisle decried the Senate Republicans’ lack of transparency in drafting Obamacare replacement proposals — a move that could’ve passed without a single Democrat since it was included in the budget reconciliation process. Now, Republicans are blaming the loss on that very process, assessed a panel of journalists and researchers on Wednesday.
“There are not the votes in the Senate, as I’ve said repeatedly to the president and to all of you, to change the rules of the Senate,” McConnell said at a leadership press conference on Tuesday.
Because budget reconciliation legislation requires only a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than a filibuster-proof 60 votes for regular legislation, the Senate GOP chose it as a vehicle to try to pass repeal and replace legislation. After Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough warned last Tuesday that two provisions of the GOP health care bill would not qualify for a simple majority vote and would require the standard 60 votes, Republican senators put forward a “skinny repeal” measure using a simple majority through reconciliation.
In the end, even the “skinny repeal” bill didn’t get the 51 votes needed when Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) dramatically gave a thumbs down early Friday morning and ended the Republican health care overhaul effort.
“Reconciliation deprived the Republicans of their most effective rule of blaming Democrats,” Molly Reynolds, Brookings Institution governance studies fellow, said. “They couldn’t credibly say the reason they couldn’t get anything done was because Democrats weren’t willing to work with them.”
McCain said after his vote that the procedural gambit was the wrong course of action.
“Obamacare should be repealed and replaced with a solution that increases competition, lowers costs, and improves care for the American people,” said McCain in a statement. “The so-called ‘skinny repeal’ amendment the Senate voted on today would not accomplish those goals.”
Some experts believe that Republican senators could have overruled the Senate parliamentarian if they had wanted to pass repeal and replace health care reform before resorting to the “skinny repeal.”
“The fact that they broke all these rules but kept to the reconciliation rules, it raised a question in my mind,” said Sarah Kliff, senior editor at Vox Media. “How much did they want this bill to pass? It’s telling that they did not take that option given how much they’re willing to break from Senate traditions.”
President Donald Trump urged Republicans to change the process so simple majority rule would prevail for all votes.
“The very outdated filibuster rule must go,” tweeted Trump early Saturday. “Budget reconciliation is killing R’s in Senate. Mitch M, go to 51 Votes NOW and WIN. IT’S TIME!”
American Enterprise Institute scholar Norm Ornstein said this week’s defeat does not mean the end of health care repeal efforts.
“The frustrating thing for anybody who follows health policy is how easy it would be to put this thing back on track to pass,” he said. “But we are in a tribal environment. It’s bad for the whole nature of a deliberative process in a representative democracy and that’s tragic for all of us.”