Senate Will Hold Another Health Care Vote Next Week
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The only thing that appears certain in the Senate when it comes to health care is that there will be a vote next week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made that clear after a senators-only lunch with President Trump at the White House.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, it's pretty obvious we've had difficulty in getting 50 votes to proceed. But what I want to disabuse any of you of is the notion that we will not have that vote next week.
GREENE: Some double negatives there, but it sounds like what McConnell is saying is that there will be some kind of vote next week. What will be voted on? Let's ask NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis, who has been covering this. Good morning, Sue.
SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, David.
GREENE: So what options are left for Mitch McConnell right now? What could they vote on?
DAVIS: There's really three options on the table. And the first one, and the one that seems most likely at this stage, is failure. They still simply don't seem to have the votes it takes to pass a piece of legislation. The two pieces of legislation on the table are one option that would essentially just repeal much of the Affordable Care Act in the short term and give Congress a two-year delay period to try and find something to come up with to replace it with. And then the other option is a repeal-and-replace companion, where they repeal much of the law and, at the same time, institute a new system for people to purchase insurance on the individual market.
GREENE: But this is very complicated - right? - because weren't there senators who voted for just repeal a couple years ago but are now saying they don't want to vote for just repeal? I mean, there's a lot of nuance and complexity here.
DAVIS: Health care is complicated...
GREENE: (Laughter) To say the least.
DAVIS: ...As our president once said. You're absolutely right. You know, what gets some combination of moderate senators back on board is likely to knock a couple conservatives off the team and vice versa. So I think there is a deep amount of pessimism going into the vote next week, but I don't think you can underestimate sort of the push party leaders and the White House are making to try and get there.
GREENE: What is the push? What is happening behind the scenes?
DAVIS: You know, at this stage, it's really one-on-one meetings. We know that there's an orbit of about four to six senators that are holdouts that have deep concerns about the bill. Vice President Mike Pence has been very personally involved, as has Seema Verma, who is the White House's top Medicaid official. They're trying to figure out what these senators' concerns are and if there's a way to get there. One option they're looking at is putting more money back into the bill to fund Medicaid.
GREENE: Sue, the stakes here feel like they might be higher for this party than just about health care. I mean, is it a stretch to say this is sort of a pressure test on Republicans and their ability to govern?
DAVIS: That's not a stretch at all. You know, Ted Cruz was on Fox News last night, and he talked about the stakes. And this is what he had to say.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
TED CRUZ: If we get this right - if we follow through on Obamacare repeal, it sets this up for this to be the most productive Congress in decades, whereas if we're paralyzed, we could blow an historic opportunity. I don't want us to blow this opportunity.
DAVIS: When he talks about blowing the opportunity, the concern I hear the most from Republicans on Capitol Hill is that if health care collapses - if they cannot deliver on what has been their signature campaign promise, the infighting and the bad blood that it will generate will make it almost impossible for Republicans to move forward on their other legislative priorities. That includes overhauling the tax code and that long-promised infrastructure bill that the president and Republicans and some Democrats in Congress say that they want the most.
GREENE: All at a time, of course, when Republicans have both the White House and Congress, so a lot of pressure on them to actually govern. NPR's congressional correspondent Susan Davis in our studios this morning - Sue, thanks.
DAVIS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.