Senate GOP aims for June vote on Obamacare repeal

Senate Republican leaders want to hold a vote on an Obamacare repeal bill by the end of June, according to several Republican sources, even as the odds of passage are increasingly uncertain.

Republican leaders want resolution to the tumultuous Obamacare repeal debate by the Fourth of July recess, the sources said, to ensure the whole year isn’t consumed by health care.

Senate staff spent last week and the weekend writing the bill but left some key decisions blank. On Tuesday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will present Republicans with a series of options on the particulars in the proposal.

The GOP is getting close to a framework on how to reduce premiums, and there is general agreement on more generous tax subsidies than what the House passed. Some of the thorniest policy decisions remaining include when to roll back Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and how much to cut Medicaid overall.

Early drafts of legislation could be released by the end of this week, according to GOP sources. Republicans are "thinking we’ll be able to make progress on drafting the legislation" once senators make additional decisions, a Senate source said.

Senate Republicans have been leery of committing to a definite timeline, given that it could take weeks for the CBO to vet their legislation.

"We have to do it before we get out of here in August. We pretty much know what we have to do. We’ve talked about it for seven years," said Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas. "I wouldn’t want to necessarily rush it but it’s hard to think it’s necessarily going to go beyond July."

Lawmakers have already been meeting several times a week for nearly a month to weigh their options.

"We’re getting to the point where people need to make decisions," Cornyn added.

McConnell has made it increasingly clear to his members that his preference is to deal with the issue before July.

"He wants to be done with this one way or the other," said one person familiar with the negotiations.

To vote by June 30, Republicans would have to have their bill to the CBO about two weeks prior. Unlike the House, the Senate needs to have the score before they vote on the bill because they are required to come up with $133 billion in savings. That gives the Senate only about 10 more calendar days to finalize their legislation.

If a repeal bill is approved by the Senate by June 30, Republicans would still have one month before the August recess to merge the House and Senate bills, which are expected to have major differences.

If the Senate vote fails, Republican leaders want to have a decisive end to the Obamacare repeal debate and move on to tax reform.

Republicans are also hoping that the House-passed bill will soon officially move to the Senate, something that won’t happen until the GOP is confident that it cleared all the procedural requirements to keep the repeal process moving. While the Senate will write its own bill, the House bill cannot violate Senate rules or the measure would have to go through the House again.


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