Health care debate: Senate rejects full Obamacare repeal without replacement

WASHINGTON – Several Senate Republicans joined Democrats to defeat a bill that would repeal Obamacare without an immediate replacement.

That proposal would have significantly gutted the Affordable Care Act by repealing its unpopular individual and employer mandates, ending Medicaid expansion and rolling back a slew of the law’s taxes. The repeal would not go into effect for two years — a “transition period” during which Republicans would draft a replacement plan.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the proposal would have resulted in 32 million more uninsured Americans over the next decade. Three-quarters of the nation would live in areas with no insurers participating in the individual market by 2026, CBO said, leaving many without an option if they do not have employer-provided or government health insurance, such as Medicare or Medicaid.

Back in 2015, the passage of that bill was largely viewed as a political messaging exercise: GOP lawmakers were keenly aware that Obama would not sign it into law.

When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested voting on the 2015 repeal bill last week, the idea drew swift pushback from his own colleagues.

Senators were initially scheduled to vote on the proposal around mid-day, but that plan was unexpectedly delayed until later in the afternoon. According to a Democratic aide, the holdup was over language in the amendment about Planned Parenthood, and whether it passed the so-called “Byrd Rule,” which determines what language is permissible under the budget reconciliation process.

On Wednesday afternoon, seven Republicans joined all Democrats in a 45-55 vote, defeating the plan.