After most of the Senate GOP caucus trekked to the White House for a lunch with President Donald Trump to talk health care on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell insisted that the Senate will hold a vote next week to proceed on an Obamacare repeal bill.
In remarks during the lunch that aired on the cable news networks, Trump told Senate Republicans that he would prefer they repeal and replace Obamacare at the same time and pressured them to pass a bill before they skip town for August recess. Despite Trump’s assertion that a repeal and replace strategy would be ideal, McConnell made no assurances that the Senate would proceed down that path.
“Next week, we’ll be voting to get on the bill,” McConnell told reporters after the lunch. He did not specify which bill the Senate would vote on, but he said earlier this week that the Senate will vote on a straight repeal bill.
Already three Republican senators have said they would not support a motion to proceed on a clean repeal bill—enough to block the Senate from moving forward with the plan. But even though he yanked the Obamacare replacement bill on Monday when it became clear he didn’t have the votes to proceed, McConnell was insistent that the vote will take place this time, saying he has “every expectation that we’ll be able to get on the bill.”
Asked about Trump’s push for repealing and replacing Obamacare simultaneously, McConnell said that a concurrent replacement would be ideal and suggested that the Senate could vote on either straight repeal or a concurrent plan.
“I think we have two options here. There is a large majority in our conference that want to demonstrate to the American people that they intend to keep the commitment they made in four straight elections to repeal Obamacare,” he said when asked about Trump’s latest preference. “I think we all agree it’s better to both repeal and replace, but we could have a vote on either, and if we end up voting on repeal only, it will be fully amendable on the Senate floor, and if it were to pass without any amendment at all, there’s a two-year delay before it kicks in.”
“So, the takeaway from what I’m telling you is, no harm is done by getting on the bill. Wide open for amendment no matter what I offer as a substitute at first, it’s fully amendable,” the majority leader added.
Asked if he was experiencing “whiplash” from Trump, who has vacillated several times between pushing for straight repeal and calling for a simultaneous replacement, McConnell chuckled.
“Well, it’s pretty obvious we’ve had difficulty in getting 50 votes to proceed,” he then said. “But what I want to disabuse any of you of is the notion that we will not have that vote next week. We’re going to vote on the motion to proceed to the bill next week.”
McConnell also said that Vice President Mike Pence and other administration officials would be on Capitol Hill Wednesday evening to talk with senators who “had some difficulty in getting to yes.”