28 July 2017

Senators threaten to block healthcare ‘skinny repeal’ bill

Senator Lindsey Graham, accompanied by Senator John McCain and Senator Ron Johnson, speaks during a press conference about their resistance to the so-called "Skinny Repeal" of the Affordable Care Act on Capitol Hill in WashingtonImage copyright

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Senators McCain, Graham, and Johnson threatened to drop their support

Three Republican Senators say they will vote against the latest Obamacare repeal bill unless they receive a guarantee it will be debated further.

Lindsey Graham, Ron Johnson, and John Mc Cain’s votes are enough to scupper the Republicans’ slim majority.

The Senate and House have repeatedly disagreed on a series of healthcare bills ahead of summer recess.

House Speaker Paul Ryan seemed to accede to the demands but said it was now the Senate’s job to produce a plan.

“If moving forward requires a conference committee, that is something the House is willing to do,” he said in a statement.

“The reality, however, is that repealing and replacing Obamacare still ultimately requires the Senate to produce 51 votes for an actual plan.”

The three senators said they feared the House might blindly pass any version of the bill, “just because we have to get something done”.

“I’m not going to vote for a bill that is terrible policy and horrible politics,” Senator Graham said.

Quizzed by journalists on why they would vote for the bill at all – rather than reject it outright – the senators said they were seeking a conference committee to improve it.

Ordinarily, when two similar but different bills are passed in the House and Senate, the two versions are sent to a conference committee to reach a compromise agreement.

But if the House simply voted to approve the Senate’s bill as-is, it would be sent to President Trump to be signed into law instead.

“Just give us the assurance that whatever we pass tonight will go to conference, so the good ideas… can get scored and have a chance to be argued,” Senator Johnson said.

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Media caption‘Trump not thinking about the little people’

The latest version of the bill is being referred to as a “skinny bill” – a cut-down version which would scale back some of the more controversial parts of Obamacare (officially called the Affordable Care Act).

But some politicians are dissatisfied with the so-called skinny bill.

“The skinny bill as policy is a disaster,” Senator Graham said.

“I’d rather get of out of the way and have it collapse,” he added, “than have a half-assed approach where it is now our problem.”

The Senate is expected to work through the night on the healthcare bill.

Before it voted down the House version of the bill, President Donald Trump had urged senators to pass a bill – without indicating which one he supported.

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