GOP's repeal-and-delay plan flops after 3 senators oppose it

Sen. Susan Collins
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said Tuesday that she opposes any plan to repeal the ACA first and replace it later. (Shirley Li/Medill/CC BY 2.0)

Three moderate Republican senators now oppose a plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it later, leaving Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lacking the votes he’d need to move the measure forward.

With the Better Care Reconciliation Act scuttled following news late Monday that two more senators would oppose it, McConnell said Tuesday that the Senate would vote on an ACA repeal measure “combined with a stable, two-year transition period” during which it will craft a replacement.

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But the measure’s chances quickly died after Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski became the third GOP senator to announce her opposition to the bill.

"I cannot vote to proceed to repeal the ACA without reform that allows people the choice they want, the affordability they need and the quality of care they deserve," she said in a statement posted on Twitter. Instead, she called for the Senate to undertake a bipartisan effort to fix the ACA exchanges.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia was the first to announce her opposition to a repeal-and-delay plan. “As I have said before, I did not come to Washington to hurt people,” she said in a statement.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins—who was one of the four “no” votes that led to the demise of the BCRA—also quickly came out against McConnell’s new strategy.

“I will vote no on the motion to proceed to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement," she said

“We can’t just hope that we will pass a replacement within the next two years,” Collins added. "Repealing without a replacement would create great uncertainty for individuals who rely on the ACA and cause further turmoil in the insurance markets."

As with the BCRA, McConnell could only afford to lose two votes on a repeal-and-delay bill tailored to pass the chamber through the fast-track budget reconciliation process, given that such a measure was not expected to attract any Democratic support.

The White House, meanwhile, said it is willing to back whichever strategy results in repealing the ACA—whether that’s a repeal-and-delay bill or a “return to the legislation carefully crafted in the House and Senate,” Vice President Mike Pence said at a National Retail Federation event Tuesday.

“Inaction is not an option,” he added. “Congress needs to step up, Congress needs to do their job and Congress need to do their job now.”