Senate Republicans are tentatively preparing for a vote on repealing Obamacare in approximately two weeks and are highly unlikely to vote next week, according to senators and officials on and off Capitol Hill.
The Congressional Budget Office is reviewing legislative language sent by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell; the Senate parliamentarian must weigh in on controversial proposals; and GOP leaders still have not forged a bill that can get 50 votes. Those factors are likely to push the pivotal roll call closer to the end of July than immediately after the July 4 recess.
“There’s a lot of moving pieces. My sense is the week of the 17th is when we start moving on it,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in an interview Thursday morning.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said on Wednesday evening that such a vote is “several weeks away,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
A White House official said there would be no healthcare vote next week and that the White House and Senate Republicans would consider nominations on the floor until the health care vote is ready.
The GOP is still far from having sufficient support to pass a healthcare bill. Conservatives are arguing to gut more regulations and senators from Medicaid expansion states are queasy about future cuts to Medicaid spending.
Some progress has been made in building support since a vote was called off last week by adding opioid funding, allowing health savings accounts to pay for insurance premiums and potentially leaving some taxes in place to pay for more generous benefits.
The White House official argued that the “heavy lifting” has been done on the bill. But the CBO score for an amendment from Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to allow the sale of cheap, deregulated health plans along with last week’s additions to the bill will be pivotal in determining whether it has gained support after the original draft resulted in mass defections.
Work is also beginning on lifting the debt limit, according to the administration and Hill Republicans. That vote may be held immediately before the long August recess if health care has been dealt with by the end of the month, though it could slip to September if the Treasury Department offers reassurances to Hill leaders that such a timeline would work.
The health care debate has now sapped more than two months of the Senate’s attention. A group of 10 Senate Republicans is now calling on McConnell to consider abbreviating or canceling the August recess if meaningful progress has not been made on healthcare, spending bills, the debt ceiling and tax reform.