Rebuilt by their short victory the day before, the Republicans knew Wednesday a hard return to reality when the Senate, where they have the majority, has torpedoed their plan to abrogate purely and Obamacare.
By 55 votes, including seven Republicans, the upper house of Congress rejected this dismantling project without replacing the existing law, which would have left tens of millions of Americans without health coverage.
The Senate narrowly voted Tuesday for a simple procedural motion that allowed the reopening of the proceedings, with the aim of adopting this week a bill repealing at least partially Obamacare.
A decision welcomed by President Trump, who spoke Tuesday of “a giant step towards the end of the nightmare Obamacare”, which could ultimately lead to “a plan that is going to be true, truly wonderful for the American people.”
But the lull was short-lived for divided Republicans, who for the time being can not agree on the content of their reform of the health system.
A few hours after Vice President Mike Pence’s deciding vote to split a tied Senate (50-50) on Tuesday, nine Republican senators had already joined the Democratic opposition to reject a plan to repeal and completely replace Obamacare.
The attempts of Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Republicans in the Senate, to abrogate Obamacare without proposing a replacement, were therefore already doomed to failure. Before the vote, several Republican senators publicly opposed this solution.
“We are determined to do everything we can to succeed,” he insisted, suggesting that the new law could take many forms due to the freedom of senators to table amendments.
“I know that members of both parties have ideas to offer about the health system … and vote on them,” he said.
The approach that is gaining ground among the Republicans is that of a limited dismantling of Obamacare.
This option, called “reduced abrogation”, would eliminate the obligation for individuals to take out health insurance under penalty of a fine and that made to companies to offer coverage to their employees. This minimal reform would also eliminate a tax on manufacturers of medical equipment.
The Republican leaders do not intend to make this bill a law in its own right, but rather to use it as a basis for negotiations in the back and forth with the House of Representatives.
This approach is heavily criticized by the Democrats, who have warned that a repeal of Obamacare will result in significant cuts in Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poorest and the disabled, and generous tax cuts for Richer and very high insurance premiums for people with medical backgrounds.
“It is a Trojan horse designed to bring together the Senate and the House, where the right wing of the Republicans, the + Freedom Caucus +, will demand an outright repeal, or something very close, Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer.
“There is no good way out,” he added.
The lower house has already passed a repeal of Obamacare and a new health system reform in May, but the bill failed in the Senate. The Senate then developed its own reform, which was also rejected.
Both Houses will have to pass a similar law before it can be signed by the President.
But the deep divisions within the Republican Party on this issue cast doubt on Congress’s ability to approve a reform of the American health system. Donald Trump put all his weight to keep his promise to end Obamacare, trying to cajole and threaten several recalcitrant Republican senators.
The President of the United States, among other things, turned to a moderate senator who voted Tuesday against the reopening of the debates over the repeal of Obamacare.
“Senator @lisamurkowski of the great state of Alaska really let the Republicans and our country down yesterday. Too bad!” He tweeted on Wednesday.