As the Senate continues to plot how to use its bonus floor time in August, Senate Republicans are pushing back against pressure from the White House to make yet another attempt at passing legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Republican leadership has indicated — despite a barrage of tweets from the President — that it wants to move on to other issues, with Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT) saying yesterday that “there's just too much animosity and we're too divided on healthcare.” Adding to the unlikelihood that healthcare is addressed in the near future is the fact that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — the key defector in last week’s 49-51 failed vote — is in Arizona receiving cancer treatment. A path to 50 votes on a partisan bill would therefore entail flipping the votes of either Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) or Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), both of whom have been firm in their opposition to Republican plans that would result in steep coverage losses.
Nevertheless, Senate negotiations on healthcare are still ongoing. A proposal being crafted by Sens. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and Dean Heller (R-NV) that would keep most of the policy changes of the Senate’s original plan while giving additional authority to state governments is gaining steam and may be scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) soon. Other top conservatives, such as Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), have also shown a reluctance to give up on the repeal and replace effort. With the Senate calendar working against them, and a slew of must-pass items awaiting in September, it remains likely that last week’s drama will be the last on healthcare for the foreseeable future; however, given the stakes involved, the issue will undoubtedly remain in the headlines in the weeks to come.
The Senate’s floor schedule today consists only of continued consideration of Kevin Newsom to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Eleventh Circuit. Both parties will have their weekly caucus meetings this afternoon, which may provide more clues into the chamber’s plans for the remainder of August.