ACA Repeal & Replace Stalls in the Senate

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On July 17, 2017, the U.S. Senate’s effort to simultaneously repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) came to an end. Just four days earlier, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a revised version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act – the Senate’s bill to repeal and replace the ACA. The revised bill included changes that were intended to address some concerns of those opposing the original draft that was released in late June; however, four Senators – Susan Collins (R., Maine), Jerry Moran (R., Kan.), Mike Lee (R., Utah) and Rand Paul (R., Ky.) – came out in opposition to the revised bill, which left Sen. McConnell short of the 50 Republican votes needed to get the bill passed.

With plans to repeal and replace the ACA at a standstill, Sen. McConnell issued a statement saying the Senate will take up the American Health Care Act passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in May 2017. If the Senate agrees, an amendment based on the 2015 legislation vetoed by President Obama will be offered to repeal the ACA with a two-year delay that allows for drafting and passing replacement legislation. Three Senators – Susan Collins (R., Maine), Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) – quickly came out in opposition to this plan. Nonetheless, Sen. McConnell announced plans to call for a vote the week of July 24-28, 2017 on a motion to proceed.

With repeal and replacement of the ACA faltering and Republicans deeply divided over health care, it is not clear what the next move will be but some have suggested starting over. Rather than pushing legislation through the budget reconciliation process, some want to hold committee hearings and move any bills through the regular legislative process. However, it is an approach that would require cooperation from Democrats as 60 votes in the Senate would be needed to pass any legislation. With that in mind, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D., N.Y.) has called on Republicans to work with Democrats to pass bipartisan legislation. It remains to be seen if they take him up on the offer.