A Dramatic Day in the Capitol as Republicans Move to Repeal Obamacare, But With No Idea How to Replace It
Senate drama. Opponents of Republican efforts to strip at least 20 million Americans of their health insurance were heartened late Tuesday night when the most comprehensive plan to replace President Barack Obama’s health law fell far short of the votes it needed. The 43-57 vote, which under Senate rules required a 60-vote majority to pass, was on an amendment that included proposals intended to appeal to conservatives as well as less radical Republicans. One proposal, offered by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), would have allowed insurers to sell stripped-down health plans, without maternity care or other benefits required by the Affordable Care Act.
The late night vote came toward the end of a rare, historic day in the Senate, with all 100 senators present and voting and Vice President Mike Pence breaking a tie. The Senate began 20 hours of debate on Trumpcare and the repeal of Obamacare, even though Republicans didn’t know what version of Trumpcare they might end up voting for. Most of them didn’t care either. “We have no earthly idea what we will be voting on,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), although he voted to open debate. Two Republicans, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), joined with 48 Democrats and voted against the procedural motion.
The climax of the day was the appearance and speech by 80-year-old Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer. Individual senators walked across the room to greet McCain, and the whole chamber gave him a standing ovation. McCain voted to begin debate but predicted the entire effort was likely to fail and that Republicans should start over: “All we’ve managed to do is make more popular a policy that wasn’t very popular when we started trying to get rid of it.”
Russia sanctions. The GOP-controlled House overwhelmingly voted 419-3 to limit the Trump administration’s ability to lift sanctions on Russia. Trump reportedly is considering restoring Russian access to two diplomatic compounds in New York and Maryland that former President Barack Obama seized last year because of Russian meddling in the presidential election. The bill also establishes new sanctions on Iran and North Korea. The Senate passed the bill 98-2 last month. The near-unanimity means the House could override a veto by Trump.
Voter data. Information about voters across the country including our names, addresses, birth dates and partial Social Security numbers can be turned over to the commission Trump set up to investigate his claims of voter fraud. The Electronic Privacy Information Center had asked for a preliminary injunction to stop the commission from getting the information. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the commission is not a federal agency and didn’t have to follow reporting requirements for federal agencies to get the records.
Public flogging. Supporters of Attorney General Jeff Sessions are warning Trump against firing him. Trump wants to replace Sessions so he can get rid of special counsel Robert Mueller. The law says only the attorney general can fire a special counsel. Sessions was the first senator to endorse Trump last year. Trump told The Wall Street Journal he doesn’t believe he owed Sessions anything. First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, met with congressional investigators.
Featured Photo: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) addressing the Senate at the start of the Trumpcare-Obamacare debate.