Senate Republicans admit defeat in latest effort to repeal Affordable Care Act

Senate leaders admitted they did not have the votes to pass a bill, hours after Trump railed against certain so-called Republicans for refusing to vote for it

The latest Republican attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act died on Tuesday as it became obvious they did not have the votes to pass a bill that would leave millions without health insurance.

The admission of defeat received from Senate leader Mitch McConnell and the sponsors of the bill after party debates over lunch on Capitol hill left them in no doubt their slim majority could not survive a revolt.

Republicans were at least one vote short in their effort to repeal Obama’s signature domestic policy accomplishment and were running out of time to force-out the bill through this week before a key procedural deadline.

They confessed defeat on one of their central promises of the past several decades, hours after Donald Trump was left railing against” certain so-called Republican” refusing to vote for the latest bill.

” To be clear, through events that are under our control and not under our control, we don’t have the votes ,” said Louisiana senator Bill Cassidy, one of the authors of the measure.” We’ve attained the decision since we don’t have the votes, we will defer that election. Am I frustrated? Utterly .”

At a press conference after lunch, the bill’s writers insisted that Republicans supported the substance of their proposal, which would direct billions of dollars under the healthcare law to states in the form of block awards, transferring sweeping new discretion over how to deliver healthcare.

” Patience is a virtue ,” co-author Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, said.” Time is actually on our side. The elections “were in” absence were actually more about process than substance. We can fix the process and we can improve the substance, so that’s why I’m optimistic .”

Addressing conservative voters and donors who helped revive the repeal effort after it failed in a dramatic fashion in July, Graham pledged Republican still had the “fight” left to ensure the law is replaced.

Senator John Thune of South Dakota, a is part of Republican leadership, said he expected voters would be frustrated.” I don’t blame them ,” Thune said.” They have to hold us accountable and we made a commitment. I hope they’ll have a little bit of patience .”

Lindsey
Lindsey Graham with John Barrasso, Bill Cassidy John Cornyn and Mitch McConnell. Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein/ Reuters

On Tuesday, McConnell opened debate in the Senate by assailing the ACA, widely known as Obamacare, but offered no guidance on whether he would hold a election or not. Hours afterwards, he admitted defeat. Later that afternoon, McConnell made clear his caucus was moving on to other legislative priorities.

” We haven’t given up on changing the American healthcare system. We are not going to do that this week but it still lies ahead of us ,” McConnell said.” We do think it’s time to turn to our twin priority: reforming the tax code. We’ve reached significant agreements inside the budget committee to go forward and I’m optimistic that we’ll achieve that .”

Trump has been frustrated by Republican’ repeated failings on healthcare and has expressed displeasure with the senators who have stood in the way of repeal measures.

Asked on Tuesday if he would demand Republican leadership hold a vote on the healthcare bill, Trump replied:” We’ll see what happens .”

He told:” It’s going along and at some phase, there will be a repeal and replace. But we’ll see whether that point is now or whether it will be shortly thereafter. But we are disappointed in certain so-called Republicans .”

His frustration came after the very public opposition of Susan Collins, Rand Paul and John McCain, who made clear they would vote no. That would be enough to sink the bill given the Republican’ narrow 52 -4 8 majority in the Senate.

On Monday, Collins announced her opponent moments after the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office published an analysis that find millions of Americans would lose their health insurance if the bill became law.

During a televised debate on healthcare on Monday night, Cassidy and Graham recognise the setbacks but vowed is to promote with their bill.

” We are going to press on ,” Graham said during the CNN debate.” It’s OK to vote. It’s OK to fall short, if you do, for an idea that you believe in .”

For seven years, Republican have won elections on the promise to repeal the healthcare statute and replace it with a conservative scheme that removes decision-making power from the federal government. Repealing the ACA was also a central thrust of Trump’s campaign, though his fickle expectations for its replacing have complicated Republican attempts to repeal the law.

To overhaul the healthcare system on a party-line election, Republican want to use a process called ” reconciliation” that allows lawmakers to pass bills affecting taxes and spending with a simple majority. But the reconciliation process is time-bound, tied to a budget resolution Congress passed earlier this year, which ends on 30 September.

The analysis followed a frantic try by the bill’s writers to win over reluctant senators, rewriting the bill to deliver more federal funds to countries where the senators were undecided, such as Alaska and Maine.

While Paul opposed the measure because he believed it did not go far enough in repealing the ACA, Collins and McCain, two of the three senators who derailed a repeal try in July, lamented a rushed process and exhorted a return to” regular order”, which includes public hearings and a full CBO analysis.

Reacting to the news, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said Americans would” exhale a sigh of relief” and praised the voters and activists who quickly mobilized against the bill.

” Our colleagues got no choice, in the face of opposition from one end of the land to the other, to withdraw their bill ,” Schumer told.” Now we hope that Republicans don’t come back to this bill. It will meet the same fate that it did this time because the people didn’t like it .”

Schumer recommended Republicans to resume the bipartisan negotiations over ways to stabilize the insurance markets.

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Congress returns to face daunting undertakings: avoid a shutdown and an angry Trump

The House and Senate have only days to forestall a government shutdown, while also coping with a chairman impatient to assert victories in his first 100 days

After two weeks away, the 535 members of Congress return to Washington this week facing a critical deadline: they have five days to keep the government from shutting down, on the 100 -day milestone of Donald Trumps presidency.

In a rare show of bipartisanship, Democrats and Republicans are united in their determination to keep the suns on. But its unclear how they will navigate the vying interests of their parties and the White House to find a solution that the three sides can support.

Meanwhile, the president has expressed pained awareness of the first 100 -day mark, used as a benchmark since the first term of Franklin D Roosevelt. On Friday Trump rejected the 100 days as a ridiculous standard which could be used to judge a presidents accomplishments, and predicted that the media wouldnt give him the credit he deems himself owed.

Barring dramatic action, Trump will pass the 100 -day mark next Saturday without a major legislative victory and with a conspicuous failure to guide his party to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. White House officials have reportedly pressed Republicans to vote on the healthcare statute next week.

If the threat of a shutdown and a battle over healthcare werent enough to eat lawmakers time in a dizzying week, Trump also announced that he were planning to unveil his tax reform plan on Wednesday.

Healthcare

Although Republican failed to secure support last month for a replacement scheme proposed by House Speaker Paul Ryan, healthcare is back on the orders of the day at the White Houses urging.

Speaking from London on Wednesday, Ryan said his party was in the midst of negotiating sort of finishing touch on a compromise that would bridge the ideological divide within his party, which controls the Senate and the House.

Over the two-week recess, conservatives and moderates came together to hammer out an amendment to Ryans deeply unpopular plan. The proposal, according to a one-page white paperobtained by Politico, would give states the option to opt out of key provisions, including protections for sick people with pre-existing conditions.

The amendment would keep the ACA requirement that insurance plans must cover 10 essential health benefits, such as maternity care and prescription drugs. But states could apply to waive those provisions if they could fulfill certain terms.

While the negotiations played out, Republican lawmakers faced constituents angry about the first replacement and determined to save the ACA at town halls across the country.

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Treasury secretary exhorts Senate to pass Puerto Rico bill before next debt default

Jack Lew alerts debt crisis in US territory will ratchet up if it defaults on$ 2bn pay on Friday as Senate expected to vote on bill afterward this week

The US Senate must take immediate action to address Puerto Ricos $70 bn indebtednes crisis, Treasury secretary Jack Lew said on Monday, days before the near bankrupt territory looks set to default on its debts once more.

In a letter addressed to Senate leadership, Lew called on Congress to pass a bill addressing the issue before the US territory defaults on a$ 2bn debt pay this Friday.

On 1 July only four days from now the crisis in Puerto Rico will ratchet up to an even higher level. Puerto Rico has$ 2bn in debt payments coming due that day, including payments on constitutionally prioritized indebtednes on which Puerto Rico has not previously defaulted, Lew wrote.

He pointed out that the US House of Representatives already passed a bill earlier this month on 9 June that would devote Puerto Rico the tools to recover without any federal spending and exhorted the Senate to vote on it immediately. The Senate is expected to vote on the matter this week before leaving for the 4 July holiday. If the Senate passes the bill but amends it, the House will have to vote on it again next week when it is back in conference, which could be too late for Puerto Rico.

I urge Republicans and Democrat to come together in the Senate as you have before to help our fellow citizens, and get a bipartisan bill to the Chairmen desk before 1 July, Lew pleaded with the US Senate.

Others warned of what might happen if the bill did not pass before the end of the week.

If legislation doesnt pass before 1 July, we are opening the door for vulture funds to exploit Puerto Rico , noted Eric LeCompte, a United Nation indebtednes expert and the executive director of the religion development coalition Jubilee USA. Up to now weve insured very little predatory behavior, but if Puerto Rico defaults without protections, the vultures will swoop in.

Last week Lew met with Senate Democrat urging them to pass the bill , noting that Puerto Rico could not wait any longer. That same day, a group of bondholders filed a suit against Puerto Ricos government as indebtednes negotiations fell apart.

Puerto Ricos governor, Alejandro Garca Padilla, also visited Washington last week to make a example for a quick passageway of the bill.

We need the bill by 1 July. We need the bill yesterday, Garca Padilla said on Thursday. He added that even if he were to shut down the government, a July default would not be averted.

We dont have the money for the payroll, the medical system and the healthcare system and to pay our indebtedness. If I shut down the government on 1 July, I still dont have enough fund to pay, he said. Its merely a reality. We do not have the money. Thats why weve been saying that we will default on 1 July.

In his letter to the Senate, Lew warned that in case of the default or a successful creditor suit, Puerto Rico could be forced to pay creditors instead of using funds on health, education and public safety, which could result in laying off police and shutting down hospitals and public transportation.

The legislation offer critical breathing space, said LeCompte. Before Puerto Ricos next default, it needs the protection of this legislation. The bill in front of the Senate permits Puerto Rico to pay pensions and social services before it pays the debt.

Last week, when the Federal Reserve chair, Janet Yellen, testified before the US Senate, US lawmakers attempted to find out if the Fed would step in at the last minute and provide Puerto Rico organizations with emergency loans as a last resort.

I guess our authority is extremely limited. It would not is suitable for us to give loans to Puerto Rico. We have very limited authority to buy municipal debt and the authority we have, if we were to buy the eligible indebtednes, I dont think it would be helpful to Puerto Rico, Yellen told them, before flinging the ball back in their court by saying: This is inherently a matter for Congress and is not something that is appropriate for the Federal Reserve.

Read more: www.theguardian.com