WASHINGTON (CN) – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he will go forward with a plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a ready replacement, even as three Republican senators announced they would not support the idea.
McConnell abandoned plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, on Monday night after Sens. Mike Lee and Jerry Moran became the third and fourth Republicans to oppose their party’s revised health care plan.
Their opposition prevented McConnell from even bringing the bill to the floor for a decisive vote. The majority leader then pivoted to a repeal-only objective, but Republicans quickly shied away from that plan as well, with Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski announcing they would not support a repeal of Obamacare without a replacement in place. Republicans could only afford two defections in order to pass the bill using reconciliation, a special process that only requires a simple majority of senators to approve.
“As I have said before, I did not come to Washington to hurt people,” Capito said in a statement on Tuesday.
“For months, I have expressed reservations about the direction of the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare,” Capito continued. “I have serious concerns about how we continue to provide affordable care to those who have benefited from West Virginia’s decision to expand Medicaid, especially in light of the growing opioid crisis. All of the Senate health care discussion drafts have failed to address these concerns adequately.”
McConnell admitted at a press conference on Tuesday that it is “pretty clear” his party does not have the 50 votes necessary to pass a replacement plan.
“We have demonstrated that Republicans by themselves are not prepared at this particular point to do a replacement,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday.
Even with Tuesday’s defections, McConnell said he plans to hold a vote “in the near future,” a slightly different term than the one he used to describe the timing of the vote Monday night, when he promised a repeal vote “in the coming days.”
Republicans voted in 2015 to repeal Obamacare, with only Collins and former Sen. Mark Kirk voting against the plan. That bill was quickly vetoed by President Barack Obama, and Obama’s presence in the White House made any further effort to repeal the law before this year an exercise in symbolism.
Still, Republicans in favor of a clean repeal bill put pressure on wavering Republicans to deliver on a promise the party has been making for the better part of a decade. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a key holdout from the Republican health care plan who nonetheless supports a clean repeal, noted that Republicans have promised for years to repeal Obamacare and that failing to do so when given the chance would raise questions.
“I think those Republicans who promised to repeal Obamacare ought to vote the same way they voted in 2015,” Paul told reporters on Tuesday. “If you’re not willing to vote the same way you voted in 2015, then you need to go back home, you need to explain to Republicans why you’re no longer for repealing Obamacare.”
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he is “disappointed” in Republicans who did not support the health care plan and that he might be prepared to “let Obamacare fail.”
“It will be a lot easier,” Trump told reporters Tuesday. “And I think we’re probably in that position where we’ll just let Obamacare fail. We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you, the Republicans are not going to own it.”