White House blindsided by repeal-and-replace health care plan's implosion

The White House was surprised by two senators' defection last night.

July 18, 2017, 1:49 PM

— -- When Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas last night effectively killed the Republican health care bill, the president's top legislative priority, they announced their positions without first telling the White House about their move, a White House official said.

The snub comes on the same night that President Trump hosted a group of Republican senators, all of whom supported the bill, for dinner at the White House, in part to discuss strategy to pass the bill.

In a statement Tuesday, a spokesperson for Moran said their office "made certain the White House and Senate leadership were aware and would not have moved forward without having these discussions. It was a brief, positive conversation with the White House regarding the path forward.”

An aide to Moran said the senator's office called the president's team a couple of minutes before the statement was released publicly.

Even before Moran and Lee's announcements last night, Republicans were in a precarious position, with two other GOP senators on the record as opposed (Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan Collins of Maine). That was the most defections that Senate leadership could absorb and still pass the measure, assuming it would have Vice President Mike Pence's tie-breaking vote.

In a statement yesterday, Lee said the GOP bill "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."

Moran said the bill "fails to repeal the Affordable Care Act or address healthcare’s rising costs," according to a statement yesterday.

On Tuesday morning Trump sought to cast blame for the implosion of the GOP plan's defeat on the Democrats (none of whom supported the measure), even though the plan was devised exclusively by Republicans.

The new plan is to bring up a bill that passed the Senate in December 2015 by a 52-47 vote and amounted to a nearly complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Collins also voted against the 2015 bill. But 49 currently serving Republican senators voted for it. And Sen. Todd Young, of Indiana, then a member of the House, voted for the bill in that chamber.

Theoretically there may be 50 votes for this bill.

But the political climate has shifted dramatically since then. In 2015 that bill was passed as a symbolic gesture, with the knowledge that it was dead on arrival at the White House, with then-President Obama vetoing the measure.

Republicans who supported the 2015 bill may have some explaining to do if they plan to vote against the measure this time around.

The new version of the 2015 plan will likely delay the repeal of the Affordable Care Act by as much as three years, in order to give Congress time to come up with a replacement plan before the repeal goes into effect.

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