Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Friday he won’t adhere to the call made by President Donald Trump to repeal the Affordable Care Act now and work on a replacement bill later.
The Senate Republican leadership has thus far been unable to garner enough support from both conservatives and moderates to pass its Better Care Reconciliation Act, a plan that would replace Obamacare with some free-market reforms and a rollback of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. Conservatives — notably Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) — have said they can’t support the current version of the bill because it’s too similar to Obamacare. Self-described Republican moderates have said the bill’s cuts to social programs would harm too many people.
Tired of the gridlock in the Senate, Trump announced on Twitter on Friday he supports repealing Obamacare first and then passing new legislation to replace the ACA, a strategy many pundits, analysts and politicians have said in the past is too risky politically.
"If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!" Trump wrote.
In response to Trump’s plan, McConnell told a group of Republicans on Friday in Kentucky he will continue to pursue legislation that replaces the ACA without a repeal.
On Tuesday, McConnell, who had long planned on passing a Senate bill relatively quickly, said the Senate leadership would delay a vote on the BCRA until after Congress’s Fourth of July recess, citing a lack of support for the legislation in the Senate.
On Monday, the Congressional Budget Office released its score of the Senate’s health care bill, in which CBO predicted 22 million fewer people would have health insurance by 2026 compared to the number of Americans CBO estimates would have insurance if the ACA were to stay intact.
Although many Republicans have questioned the reliability of CBO’s report — which also stated health insurance premiums would drop substantially and many of the uninsured would choose not to buy health insurance (even though they’d have enough money to do so) — the “22 million” figure was enough to scare some moderate Republican senators, notably Susan Collins (Maine), who now say they can’t support the legislation.
Despite these challenges, McConnell plans to press forward with his current strategy, hoping to strike a balance that makes the many factions in the Senate happy enough to vote in favor of the BCRA.
"It's not easy making America great again, is it?" McConnell told the Kentucky crowd on Friday.