As the Senate Obamacare replacement bill collapsed Monday night when Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) added their names to those opposed to the legislation, Senate leaders and President Donald Trump began planning for a different scenario: repeal now and replace later.
But on Tuesday afternoon, the short-lived idea seems to have already met its demise, according to the New York Times. Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Shelley Moore Capito (W. Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) have already announced they will not vote for a repeal without replacement legislation, which will effectively kill any chance the idea had at picking up steam. Without these three Republican senators, Republicans have no hope of reaching the 50-vote threshold needed to pass the bill.
Capito released a statement explaining her decision, saying she does not believe it would be in the best interest of her constituents.
"I did not come to Washington to hurt people," she said. "I cannot vote to repeal Obamacare without a replacement plan that addresses my concerns and the needs of West Virginians."
All three Republican senators supported the measure to repeal Obamacare in 2015, lending to speculation that their original votes were based on the assumption that former President Barack Obama would veto the measure no matter what.
Although Republican Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio) did not officially state his full opposition to the planned measure, according to the Times, he also insinuated that he was not likely to support it.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reacted to the news by indicating that the Senate plans to move on to considering tax reform and the president's infrastructure spending bill, indicating that for all intents and purposes, the fight to repeal Obamacare is dead once and for all, as of this point.
McConnell sill faces significant hurdles before he can even begin to tackle the tax reform portion of the president's agenda, however. Democrats have promised to filibuster Trump's tax reform plan in its current form, which means that McConnell's best chance of passing the legislation is through the reconciliation process.
However, under Senate rules, Congress must adopt a 2018 budget resolution before any such bill can pass through reconciliation. Such a resolution has not even been brought before the Senate and Hill insiders predict that any such resolution would have difficulty passing the House. With the recess looming, any plans to pass tax reform in this calendar year are looking extremely problematic.