Today’s “skinny repeal” plan for Obamacare was a big win for Senator Rand Paul, who had come up with this fallback strategy during discussions with President Donald Trump.
Senate Republicans will now move ahead with their Obamacare repeal debate, after a tie breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence. Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska went against their party and voted “no” along with the Democrats. Not a single Democrat voted yes.
The aim now will be to repeal three key parts of Obamacare, the individual and employer mandates and the medical device tax.
Senator Paul had opposed previous versions of replacement plans which he referred to as “Obamacare-lite,” and became a crucial voice in coming to an agreement that would work.
“Renaming and keeping parts of Obamacare, new entitlements and extending medicaid expansion are not the #FullRepeal we promised,” he tweeted in March.
In several conversations, in person and on the phone, sources tell Big League Politics that Senator Paul and President Trump discussed how the senator could get to a “yes” vote. On the one hand, there were many policy issues that could be fixed. But on the other hand, Senator Paul was willing to vote for a “skinny” or smaller version of a clean repeal, as long as it did not have the massive spending and insurance bailouts of the Senate leadership bill.
As discussions continued with the president, Paul brought this “skinny repeal” plan to Senate leadership multiple times. Today, he was given what he asked for.
In order for Paul to vote “yes,” Senate had to agree to a clean vote on the 2015 repeal (which they previously passed) along with the Senate leader bill (BCRA), which needed a 60-vote threshold to pass, which meant that it was surely unable to pass — as they did not have Democrat votes. If those failed, they would move to passing a repeal of as many mandates and taxes as they could agree on.
If we cannot pass full, clean 2015 repeal, I've also been told we will vote on whatever version of CLEAN repeal we can pass.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) July 25, 2017
While this isn’t the full repeal that Paul was after, it is clean and avoids the additional spending and bailouts.
Prior to the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called Obamacare a “failed left-wing experiment.” He added that he was in agreement with President Trump, that “any senator who votes against starting a debate is telling America that you are fine with the Obamacare nightmare, and that it’s a “position even Democrats have found hard to defend.”