New defections scuttle Senate healthcare bill—for now

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The path forward on repealing the ACA is unclear now that two more senators have said they will vote against the Senate's healthcare bill.

Two more Republican senators have defected against the chamber’s healthcare bill, leaving the measure without enough votes to move forward—at least for now.

Jerry Moran of Kansas and Mike Lee of Utah both announced Monday night that they would vote no on a motion to proceed with the Better Care Reconciliation Act. Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky both already said they would vote against the measure, leaving Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with no votes to spare, as he needs 50 to pass the bill.

UPDATE: Changing gears in the face of defections, Mitch McConnell says Senate will vote on repeal, save replace for later

Moran’s problem with the BCRA is that it’s not a true repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and that it doesn’t do enough to lower healthcare costs. He also criticized the “closed-door process” that produced the bill, saying the Senate "must now start fresh with an open legislative process.”

For Lee, some of the recent revisions to the healthcare overhaul seem to be the issue.

“After conferring with trusted experts regarding the latest version of the Consumer Freedom Amendment, I have decided I cannot support the current version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act,” he said, referring to an amendment touted by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

The bill, he added, doesn’t repeal all of the ACA’s taxes, doesn’t do enough to lower premiums and doesn’t “create enough space” from the most costly ACA regulations—suggesting he would need the measure to move even further right to support it.

McConnell had already delayed his plans to vote on the bill this week due to Sen. John McCain’s absence from the chamber following an unexpected surgery. It was the second time McConnell had to delay a vote; the first time he simply lacked enough GOP votes to proceed.

The Senate majority leader previously warned that if the BCRA fails, he might have to pursue a legislative fix for the Affordable Care Act marketplaces—a venture that would require working with Democrats in order to win the necessary votes. Indeed, a bipartisan group of senators had already begun talks on such a contingency plan. 

The White House, however, does not appear to be giving up on repealing the ACA, based on a statement released Monday night: