With just 9 working days left until the week-long July 4 recess, it appears that Senate Republicans are getting close to bringing a healthcare to the floor.
They have little room for error.
Legislative text should begin to be shown to rank-and-file Republicans by the end of the week, before a vote coming sometime next week. The limited timeframe means that there will be little time for debate, which has been a source of contention for both Democrats and a number of GOP members.
A vote late next week will also be perilously close to the self-imposed deadline. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to get a vote done by the week-long July 4 recess in order to avoid further public scrutiny on the bill.
“I believed the majority leader when he said he’s going to take it up,” GOP Sen. Richard Burr told Politico on Monday. “I expect us to vote on it next week.”
Sen. Bob Corker said on MSNBC Tuesday that GOP Senators will be meeting on Wednesday to outline the bill and the language will be distributed on Thursday. He also said he had not seen the plan yet.
There are some caveats, however, as Republicans have to come together on a few key issues in order to meet this timeline.
Hurdles and delays
For instance, the two sides disagree on how long to fund the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, which increased the limit for Medicaid to income equaling 138% of the federal poverty limit. Many Republican-majority states have expanded the program that provides insurance for low-income Americans, compelling Senators in those states to try and preserve the expansion. Conservative, on the other hand, want to get rid of the increased federal spending as soon as possible.
While the outline of a plan for Medicaid appears to be forming, it is far from guaranteed that the idea will placate both sides.
Other issues such as the size of tax credits to help people buy insurance, waivers that would allow states to do away with some of the ACA’s consumer protections, money to fight the opioid crisis, and the need to repeal some of Obamacare’s taxes will come into play during the negotiations.
Not only do Republican Senators face a series of complex issues, the path forward is complicated by the fact that McConnell can only afford to lose two members of his conference. Any more than that and the bill will fail.
According to Politico, these disagreements could still kill or delay the bill past the self-imposed deadline.
The other possibility is that the GOP knows they do not have enough votes to pass the bill and bring it to the floor anyway. This would allow them to put the issue to rest and move on with other items on the agenda — like tax reform.
The final issue is the score from the Congressional Budget Office.
The CBO score is necessary since the Senate bill must save as much or more against the federal deficit than the House of Representatives version. But it will likely take the CBO up to two weeks to get the bill fully scored.
The GOP leadership has been sending bits and pieces of the bill to the CBO in order to get preliminary scoring on the bill, but it’s unclear how soon the bill needs to get to the CBO in full in order to guarantee a vote by next Friday.
Eric Assaraf of Cowen Washington Research Group said that this issue may be the one to hold up the bill.
“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had set a self-imposed deadline of June 30 for a floor vote, but it’s looking more and more likely that the vote will slip into July as it takes the CBO roughly two weeks to score legislation,” said Assaraf in a note to clients on Monday.
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