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McConnell desperately grasping for Republican votes for GOP health care bill

With the deadline drawing closer, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is attempting to lure in more votes from fellow Republicans for the GOP health care bill meant to replace Obamacare. (Getty Images)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is attempting to rally GOP senators to vote for the leadership's Obamacare replacement bill, but he's facing several obstacles — namely his fellow Republican senators.

The Hill reported that McConnell went to the floor Wednesday to urge Republicans to drop procedural objections to the bill, signaling that his patience is wearing thin and that he is uncertain the bill will pass.

However, GOP leadership got a procedural boost from the Senate parliamentarian Wednesday that will help them in their efforts to get the bill through the upper chamber with a simple-majority vote. The parliamentarian ruled that the House-passed bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, the American Health Care Act (H.R. 1628), does fall under Senate budget reconciliation rules and can be used as a legislative vehicle for the Senate GOP bill. The ruling clears all procedural obstacles the bill's opponents may have been hoping to deploy — including the filibuster.

“If we sit on our hands, families will continue to suffer. And if we let this opportunity to move beyond Obamacare pass us by, what other options will there be?” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

Opposition to the bill is enough that allowing the bill to proceed to the floor for debate is being blocked by some Republicans. McConnell warned senators that should the blockade continue, no one will be able to amend the bill.

"I'm sure members will have other good ideas ... and I hope they will offer them ... but if the Senate is prevented from even proceeding to the bill, none of us will have an opportunity — not Republicans, not Democrats, not anyone," McConnell said

McConnell was joined by Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), who said Republicans have an obligation to hold to tradition and allow the debate to proceed.

In spite of the GOP leadership's urging, some Republicans still appear wary about jumping on board. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) expressed their disapproval of the bill from the moment it was revealed.

Paul declared this week that he still will not vote for the bill in a blistering op-ed and lambasting the bill and the GOP for failing to repeal Obamacare as promised.

Whether Cruz or Lee will vote for the bill is still up in the air. Before heading into a Republican lunch to discuss the legislation, Cruz told reporters that getting his vote will depend on "what’s in the bill.” According to Politico, Cruz submitted a controversial amendment that would "allow the sale of cheap, deregulated insurance plans as long as Obamacare-compliant plans are still sold."

The Hill reported that Cruz's amendment will be featured in the bill; however, Lee said he has not read the revised version of the bill and cannot say whether he will include his vote for the legislation until he does. The Cruz-Lee amendment may prove enough to capture the two conservative Republican votes, but moderates have been pushing back on the amendment.

With Democrats vowing to vote "no" on the bill, McConnell can afford only two defections from the Republican ranks. Aside from the initial four senators, Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), and Dean Heller (Nev.) have also walked away from the bill.

The Hill reported that, after the GOP lunch discussing the health care bill, there was a “more positive feeling,” according to one GOP lawmaker, with regard to the motion to proceed to the bill, but that “no one stood up and said they changed their minds” to express support for the bill.

Some Republicans, including Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.)  have already said the bill was dead in the water.

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