After pushing through—on a narrow, party-line vote—a motion to proceed to debating various plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday afternoon, Republicans brought their first plan up for a vote late Tuesday night, only to watch it fail 43 to 57 in a procedural vote.
Nine Republicans joined with Democrats to kill the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA): Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Rand Paul (R-KY), Bob Corker (R-TN), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Dean Heller (R-NV).
Scathingly dubbed “Trumpcare 3.0” by Democrats, the bill was the Senate’s stab at crafting a replacement of the Affordable Care Act. It would have gutted more than $700 billion from Medicaid and sharply cut the tax credits available for low income people to buy health insurance.
The bill included a controversial provision drafted by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that would allow insurers to offer plans off of Obamacare’s exchanges that don’t cover basic care like doctor’s visits and prescription drugs. The provision was never scored by the non-partisan CBO, and a glowing analysis of it by the Department of Health and Human Services was found to be seriously flawed. The policy was originally drafted to keep the skimpy plans and comprehensive plans in a single risk pool, but Cruz told reporters Tuesday that he was tweaking it to have two separate risk pools to win over Lee’s vote. Lee voted against the bill anyway.
Just before the vote, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) railed against the Cruz amendment, warning it would create “a tale of two health systems in America.”
“The young and healthy are going to opt for the bare-bones insurance plans that don’t cover much of anything. But there are millions of people in this country who cannot get by with skimpy Cruz plan insurance. They’re suffering from cancer or diabetes. They’re recovering from a car accident. But the coverage they need would come with an astronomical price tag.”
Because the Cruz amendment and several other pieces of the bill were dinged by the Senate parliamentarian for not meeting the rules of reconciliation, the bill would have needed 60 votes to pass the Senate. But it not only lost the votes of every Democrat in the Senate, several Senate Republicans also defected.
Collins, who voted down both the motion to proceed and BCRA, complained to Politico on Tuesday that GOP leadership had only given lawmakers little time to read a nearly 200-page bill before having to cast their vote.
“That is major policy and we’re going to have potentially an hour and a half to read through that many pages?” she asked.
Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.