Their decision means Republicans in the Senate are well short of having the support to pass their legislation, and raises serious questions about whether President Trump will reach his goal of ending ObamaCare.
In light of Monday’s challenges, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the Senate will try to separate ObamaCare repeal and replacement, closing the door on the chamber’s current healthcare legislation.
“In the coming days, the Senate will vote to take up the House bill with the first amendment in order being what a majority of the Senate has already supported in 2015 and that was vetoed by then-President Obama: a repeal of Obamacare with a two-year delay to provide for a stable transition period,” McConnell said in a statement.
The move means Senate Republicans will try to repeal and replace ObamaCare separately, reverting to a plan Senate GOP leadership initially proposed earlier this year, but had to abandon due to lack of support.
In announcing their opposition to the Senate draft, Moran and Lee both said the bill failed to do enough to lower premiums.
“This closed-door process has yielded the [bill], which fails to repeal the Affordable Care Act or address healthcare’s rising costs. For the same reasons I could not support the previous version of this bill, I cannot support this one,” Moran said in a statement.
He added that the Senate “must now start fresh with an open legislative process,” an indication that relatively minor changes to the current bill would not be enough to win his support. It may also indicate he wants hearings on a bill, which were absent from the process on the current measure.
Highlighting the challenges faced by McConnell, Lee argued the measure is not conservative enough, tugging in the opposite direction from moderates.
“In addition to not repealing all of the Obamacare taxes, it doesn’t go far enough in lowering premiums for middle class families; nor does it create enough free space from the most costly Obamacare regulations,” the Utah Republican said in a statement.
Lee added on Twitter that he and Moran would not support proceeding to “this version” of the Senate GOP legislation, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act, leaving the door open to additional changes.
Lee warned that a controversial amendment from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) included in the bill does not go far enough. That amendment allows insurers to sell plans that don’t fulfill ObamaCare’s coverage mandates if they also sell plans that do.
Lee’s announcement came after he distanced himself late last week from the Cruz-negotiated provision, which was a spin-off of an amendment he initially worked out with the Texas senator. But the Utah Republican quickly said that he had not “seen it or agreed to it.”
Lee objects that the amendment still does not repeal ObamaCare’s requirement that healthy and sick people be grouped in a “single risk pool,” which he says would undermine the effectiveness of the amendment.
Moderates, many health experts and major health insurance companies are warning that premiums would spike for the people remaining in the ObamaCare plans. Any move by McConnell to address Lee’s concerns and move the bill further to the right would risk losing the support of key moderate senators, many of whom are already wary of the legislation.
The Monday evening announcement put four GOP senators officially on record against the bill and left McConnell without enough support to bring up it to the floor, forcing him to seek a plan b.
With a slim 52-seat majority, he could only afford to lose two GOP senators and Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Rand Paul (Ky.) were already expected to vote no.
In a tweet, President Trump said “Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate,” adding that, “Dems will join in!”