What To Watch During Today’s Obamacare Repeal Floor Debate

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., pauses as he joins fellow Democrats in announcing their request of the Republican majority to delay the confirmation vote on President Donald Trump's controversial nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, until the nominee turns over the thousands of requested emails from his time as attorney general of Oklahoma, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Update: The vote on the repeal-and-delay bill, as well as the procedural maneuvers regarding defending Planned Parenthood expected to precede it, has been delayed until 3:30 p.m. ET.

Having successfully approved a motion to proceed on Obamacare repeal legislation Tuesday, the GOP Senate moves into day two Wednesday of a politically uncomfortable and unpredictable series of votes as they lurch toward a final vote on passing some sort of legislation to dismantle the Affordable Care Act by the end of this week.

Expect lots of floor speeches and at least a few votes that are mostly symbolic, but will also serve as inflection points on where the Republican conference is on the repeal effort.

Here’s what to watch on the schedule so far (all times are approximate):

11:30 a.m. ET: Some procedural action on whether Republicans can defund Planned Parenthood 

After two hours of floor debate, at around 11:30 a.m. ET, lawmakers will engage in some procedural maneuvers that could shed some light on whether Republicans can use their Obamacare repeal effort to also defund Planned Parenthood.

The GOP has scheduled a vote on a version of its 2015 repeal-and-delay legislation (more on that later), which includes a provision defunding Planned Parenthood. Before the vote happens, Democrats are expected to file what’s known as a “point of order” on that provision, claiming that it violates the Senate rules that allow Republicans to pass Obamacare repeal with only 50 votes.

There’s been some back and forth on this already, with the parliamentarian ruling last week that another version of the Planned Parenthood defunding language would need 60 votes to pass. Republicans have since made some tweaks to the language and hope they’ve made it compliant with the rules. We’ll find out Wednesday late morning if they have. The underlying repeal-and-delay bill is almost certain to fail, so this isn’t about to become law. But if Republicans have found the language that allows them to defund Planned Parenthood, it will be a win for their far-right members because it shows they can do it down the road.

Noon ET: The 2015 repeal-and-delay bill (“clean repeal”)

The Senate Republicans who — minus Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) — passed 2015 legislation repealing major parts of the Affordable Care Act that then-President Obama vetoed will have a chance to take that vote again. This is a win for conservatives, who have argued that the more moderate members have backed off their campaign promises to repeal Obamacare. The vote is being scored by outside conservative groups

Enough other Republicans, however, have already said they’re now opposed to repealing Obamacare without a simultaneous replacement plan, since a Republican is in the White House to sign so. So it is expected to fail. By how much will be interesting to watch, since passing a replacement has also been so far impossible for Senate Republicans.

3:30 p.m. ET: Democratic motions sending the health care legislation into committee

Later this afternoon we’ll get into the tried-and-true tradition of the reconciliation process: political trolling. Democrats have two motions up for a vote that would send the health care legislation the Senate is debating to the relevant committees, the process that Republicans have chosen to bypass in their repeal efforts.

It will fail, but serves as a messaging tool for Dems: Plenty of rank-and-file Republicans complained about the secretive and hasty process their leaders used to push repeal, but they won’t vote to return it to regular order.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will have some extra attention on him, having on Tuesday given an impassioned speech imploring the Senate to return its institutional norms.

More votes to come?

The reconciliation process is free-wheeling and unpredictable, so there’s a chance more votes will be added to Wednesday schedule. The process will then roll on into Thursday and likely until the early hours of Friday morning, when after even more symbolic amendments and show votes, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will put up a final bill for the Senate to vote on.