Alice Ollstein contributed reporting.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) shot down the idea that Republicans would be able to revive their Obamacare repeal effort, after a House replacement bill was pulled from the floor Friday.
McConnell’s remarks Tuesday afternoon threw cold water on optimism coming from the House GOP earlier in the day that lawmakers would be able to come to a deal on the bill.
“I think where we are on Obamacare, regretfully at the moment, is where the Democrats wanted us to be, which is the status quo,” McConnell said a press conference on Capitol Hill when asked if the Senate would be able to pass major health care legislation this year without 60 votes.
“It’s pretty obvious we were not able, in the House, to pass a replacement. Our Democratic friends ought to be pretty happy about that because we have the existing law in place and I think we are just going to have to see how that works out,” McConnell said. “We believe it will not work out well, but we’ll see. They’ll have an opportunity now to have the status quo, regretfully.”
McConnell went on to thank President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan for their efforts to pass the Obamacare replacement bill, the American Health Care Act.
House leaders had aimed to pass the bill last week, which marked the seventh anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, but faced revolts from both the caucus’ far-right and centrist flanks. The legislation would have gutted Medicaid, overhauled Obamacare’s tax credits, cut its taxes on the industry and high-earners, and scaled back its insurer reforms.
It was pulled from the floor dramatically Friday afternoon because it did not have the votes, and key Republicans quickly called the effort dead. On Tuesday, House Republicans came out of a conference meeting optimistic that they would be able to go back to negotiating on the legislation while tackling other aspects of the GOP agenda.
“We had a very constructive meeting with our members. Some of those who were in the no camp expressed a willingness to work on getting to yes and to making this work,” Ryan said at a press conference after the meeting. The New York Times reported that top Trump adviser Steve Bannon had quietly restarted discussions with members of the two House GOP factions that sunk the bill.
McConnell had publicly stayed out of House infighting over the direction of the legislation, but other GOP senators had warned that the House bill would be dead-in-arrival in the Senate. Some senators were mildly optimistic at House leaders’ announcement that they were renewing work on the bill, while others signaled that they would be focusing on other agenda items, including a tax overhaul.
“I think its going to take a while,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said of the repeal effort. “We need to focus on taxes and there will come a day when Obamacare collapses, obvious to everyone, and when that day comes, we need to work together to replace it.”