The Senate returns to work Monday at 4 PM, giving Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a day to bribe and bully his Republicans into voting yes on the motion to proceed to whatever he can cobble together—or failing that, an Obamacare repeal. But as of now, what's going to be on the floor is a mystery even to the senators who will have to vote on it, and probably even McConnell. Here's what we know so far.
- Much of what is in the repeal and "replacement" bill, the "Better Care Reconciliation Act" [BCRA], has been shot down by the Senate parliamentarian, who says provisions like defunding Planned Parenthood aren't allowed under the Byrd Rule, which governs the process Republicans are trying to use to pass this. Where that leaves McConnell is more votes shy on BCRA.
- But, he's been working on a bribe for a handful of states—namely Alaska and West Virginia and Ohio—that has engaged both Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Shelley Moore Capito. It's hard to know for sure, but it appears at least Capito appears to be willing to vote to let the bill advance, then to see what she can get out of it. The money they're putting back in, though, is less that $400 billion, which is a pittance compared to the $772 billion they're taking out of Medicaid. If the so-called moderates fall for this, they'll prove they are as extreme as any of their colleagues.
- One of the things that is essential to the bill's policy structure, a six-month lockout from buying insurance for people who have not had continuous coverage, was deemed out of order by the parliamentarian. That's what Republicans had in place of the individual mandate to buy coverage in Obamacare. Without it, nothing works. People would be able to wait to buy insurance until they got ill and were going to cost their insurers a lot of money, throwing the whole system into chaos.
- One of the reasons people wouldn't buy insurance is that in some cases, the deductibles are as high as some people's annual income, and that is actually illegal according to the Congressional Budget Office. A $13,000 annual deductible in a standard health plan is against existing law.
- The Cruz amendment, which would allow insurance companies to sell crap insurance that doesn't meet consumer protection regulations as long as they also sold one compliant plan, hasn't been evaluated by either the CBO or the parliamentarian, but might still be included. Senators would be voting on that in the dark.
So there are things in the "replace" bill that can't possibly work, or in fact stay in the bill. They may or may not be being rewritten at this moment—and could be voted on TOMORROW. It appears that McConnell is still trying to patch together some kind of "replace" bill but given all the problems, that would take weeks rather than hours. So he could still be pushing and bullying and bribing to get a commitment from 50 senators to vote to on repeal and delay, a vague promise to figure out all the stuff to replace Obamacare that they can't deal with now in the next two years. Because that'll happen.
The next 24 hours is key. Don't let up on the pressure.
Make your Republican senator feel the heat. Call their office EVERY DAY at (202) 224-3121 to demand that they say NO to repealing Obamacare and ripping health care away from millions of Americans. After your call, tell us how it went.