Senators are searching for a backup plan as the Republican healthcare bill crumbles

Mitch mcconnell

The prospects for the Senate healthcare bill are dimming despite attempts by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring sceptical Republican lawmakers on board, and some members are looking toward what comes next.

McConnell told reporters Tuesday that leadership will roll out a revised version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) on Thursday with the target of voting on the bill next week.

But even with the new timeline, the GOP conference does not appear any closer to resolving the issues that have held up the bill.

On one side, conservatives are pushing for further rollbacks to the regulatory structure of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

Sen. Rand Paul, in a Breitbart op-ed published Wednesday, said the BCRA keeps too much of Obamacare and betrays the GOP’s promise to repeal the law.

“Shame. Shame on many in the GOP for promising repeal and instead affirming, keeping, and, in some cases, expanding Obamacare. What a shame,” Paul wrote.

Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee have proposed an amendment to the bill that would allow insurers to sell plans that are not compliant with two major Obamacare regulations. But since all elements of the legislation must deal with deficit reduction because of the process by which Republicans are moving the bill, the Senate parliamentarian could prohibit the amendment from being added.

If it is not added, both Lee and Cruz have said they will not support the bill.

Moderates, on the other hand, are not convinced that the BCRA includes enough protections for poorer and older Americans. Concerns remain about rollbacks for Medicaid funding and subsidies to purchase insurance in the BCRA.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine remains a serious centrist sceptic of the bill and said possible changes haven’t been sufficient to win her over yet.

“I do need a complete overhaul to get to a yes,” Collins told reporters Tuesday.

Other senators like Dean Heller, Lisa Murkowski, Shelley Moore Capito have expressed similar misgivings.

While there have been some concessions added to the bill to appeal to more moderate members, according to reports, the bill remains largely intact from its initial draft version, and it’s questionable whether it can win over holdouts from either side.

Sen. Chuck Grassley told Politico on Tuesday he ws “very pessimistic” about the prospects for the bill, while Sen. John McCain said Republicans are “in gridlock.”

Second solution

Some GOP senators are mulling the idea of a plan B: a bipartisan solution.

Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur and Laura Litvan reported Wednesday that a group of Democrats and moderate Republicans met over the past few days to discuss a possible bipartisan solution that would shore up the Obamacare markets.

Sen. Lindsay Graham told reporters he was working on a counter-proposal for healthcare that he believes could get the support of some Democratic senators and governors.

And Sen Ron Johnson — a conservative sceptic on the BCRA — told Bloomberg that it might be time to “bite the bullet” and pass a bill that would stabilise the Obamacare markets.

The possible shift comes after several Republicans mentioned the possibility of working with Democrats if the BCRA failed over the week-long July 4 recess — including McConnell.

It could also be a popular solution to what has so far been an unpopular healthcare process. A Morning Consult/Politico poll released Wednesday found 54% of Republican voters want lawmakers in their party to work with Democrats on a healthcare solution, while just 38% want the GOP to continue on its current more partisan path.