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Numerous reports suggest that the Senate, lacking the votes to pass either the Better Care Reconciliation Act or a straight repeal of Obamacare, will vote on a so-called “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday afternoon. The “skinny repeal” would likely end the ACA’s mandate that individuals buy insurance and perhaps even eliminate some taxes on the insurance industry.
The “skinny repeal” is a last-ditch effort for Senate Republicans who seem unable to rally the votes necessary to either pass the BCRA or repeal Obamacare. As NBC News reports, today’s votes are likely to go as follows: first, a motion to proceed vote that will require 50 votes. If that passes, the Senate will then “move on to debate and vote on a variety of approaches to the bill, beginning with a vote on the 2015 version of the repeal of Obamacare, according to two Senate sources.”
Mitch McConnell doesn’t seem to have enough votes to pass the 2015 version of Obamacare repeal, though Senator Rand Paul said he would vote for that repeal and Senator John McCain will return to Senate this afternoon to cast his votes. If McConnell doesn’t have the votes, it’s likely that after the vote on the 2015 repeal, the Senate will then vote on the BCRA with the Cruz amendment attached. The Cruz amendment would essentially allow insurers to opt-out of the essential health benefits required by Obamacare or offer cheaper plans. Another amendment, added by Ohio Senator Rob Portman, that increases spending on Medicaid will also be considered. What is clear is that the BCRA doesn’t have the votes to pass. Because of Senate rules, the Cruz amendment, the Portman amendment, as well as a number of key provisions in the BCRA, need 60 votes to pass. McConnell doesn’t have 60 votes.
If the Senate is unable to pass the 2015 version of Obamacare repeal, it’s likely to move on to the “skinny repeal” option: removing the mandate. Though passing the “skinny repeal” would give Republicans a political win of sorts, Vox notes that the “policy could prove extremely disruptive to the individual insurance markets.” Essentially, removing the mandate could discourage healthy individuals from buying insurance in the Obamacare marketplaces, thus “putting the individual insurance market at risk of spinning into a death spiral if Senate and House lawmakers can’t reach an agreement on a final piece of legislation.”
On Twitter, Rand Paul laid out the following timeline for today’s possible votes:
We will update this post as the Senate moves forward this afternoon.