Politics

McConnell Reveals ‘Skinny’ Bill Text as Midnight Vote Looms

At least 50 senators need to vote for repeal measure

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks back to his office Thursday night after introducing the “skinny” bill to repeal the 2010 health care law. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky revealed an eight-page scaled-back repeal of the 2010 health care law Thursday night. The development came as support grew among senators for the so-called skinny repeal as a way to continue the debate on health care legislation.

The amendment to the House-passed health care bill would repeal the 2010 law’s individual mandate and its employer mandate for eight years. It would repeal the law’s medical device tax for three years and increase the amount of money an individual can contribute to a health savings account for three years. It would provide additional funding for community health centers, while defunding Planned Parenthood for one year. Additionally, it would provide states additional flexibility through waivers that would allow states to roll back certain health care law insurance regulations.

The Senate is set to vote on the measure around midnight as a substitute amendment to the bill the House passed May 4, which would roll back President Barack Obama’s signature law and overhaul Medicaid. At least 50 Republican senators would need to vote for the Senate measure, which would then allow Vice President Mike Pence to cast a tie-breaking vote for it to pass.

Two GOP senators who had previously raised concerns about the process said they had been swayed.

“We got assurances. The speaker said I could tell you we got assurance this thing will go to conference,” Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson told reporters after speaking on a conference call with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and other GOP senators Thursday night.

Sen. Lindsey Graham also told reporters he would vote to advance the skinny legislation after speaking with Ryan.

“We’ve got one more chance. Right now we don’t have [the Congressional Budget Office] scores on bills that may actually work,” the South Carolina Republican said. “We’ve lost absolutely nothing to keep trying.”

Sens. Mike Rounds of South Dakota and David Perdue of Georgia were also on the call, Johnson said, adding that Arizona Sen. John McCain spoke with Ryan earlier.

Earlier, Graham, Johnson and McCain had slammed the skinny repeal measure and said they would not vote to advance the proposal without assurances that the House would vote to enter a conference committee. Graham called the scaled-back repeal a “disaster” and a “fraud.”

Ryan then released a statement saying that the House was willing to go to conference on the health care bill, but that the burden remained on the Senate to show the chamber could pass a bill.

Senate Republicans are hoping to pass a scaled-down repeal of the 2010 health care law during the vote-a-rama after failing to advance other proposals earlier this week.

Democrats said it was ludicrous that, just hours before the extended series of votes was set to begin, Senate Republicans still had not unveiled legislative text of what they expect to be the health care bill they send to the House. After McConnell revealed the bill, Washington Democrat Patty Murray made a motion to commit the health care overhaul reconciliation bill to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

“This process is an embarrassment. This is nuclear grade bonkers,” Connecticut Democratic Sen. Christopher S. Murphy said on the floor.

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