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Senate GOP Leader Says “Skinny” Obamacare Repeal Has “Best Chance At Getting Us To Conference”

Right on schedule, President Donald Trump is out with his latest tweet urging Republicans to pass health-care reform: "Come on Republican Senators, you can do it on Healthcare. After 7 years, this is your chance to shine! Don't let the American people down!"

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Like they say, third time's the charm.

President Donald Trump may have spoken too soon when he praised Senate Republicans as “patriots” who would swiftly put an end to the “tyranny” of Obamacare earlier this week after the chamber passed a crucial motion to proceed with a plan to repeal the controversial health-care law.

But that plan, as well as the Senate's repeal-and-replace alternative, have now been rejected. So, with few options remaining, the Senate Republican leadership now believes its best chance of passing health-care reform by the end of the week lies with a so-called “skinny repeal” bill that was drafted last week.

Pundits seem to agree. Goldman’s Alec Phillips believes there’s a “somewhat greater probability” of skinny repeal passing, though he still thinks the most likely scenario would be a Republican surrender: "We believe the status quo is more likely to be maintained," he said in a research note.

The skinny repeal bill would eliminate three of Obamacare’s most controversial features: The individual and employee mandates, and the tax on medical devices. But its biggest advantage over the other two Republican options was unwittingly revealed by Democrats, who asked the CBO to score the bill.

Turns out, a “skinny” Obamacare repeal would result in only 16 million people losing their insurance, compared with 22 million for the second draft of the Senate plan, and 32 million for full repeal, according to the Hill.

Majority whip John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in Senate leadership, told the Hill that skinny repeal could be Republicans’ best, and last, hope to unravel Obamacare.  

“ Cornyn…told reporters Wednesday that a scaled-down bill might be the best way to move forward on the issue, possibly by holding a conference committee with the House, which approved a broader repeal-and-replace bill.”

 

It “seems to have a lot of benefits, getting us to conference,” Cornyn said.

According to Reuters, a draft of the skinny bill will be released at some point on Thursday, before the Senate “embarks on a marathon voting session” that could continue into Friday morning.

The irony of this whole process is that, once Republicans muster the votes to pass a health-care bill, its contents, whether it’s repeal and replace, or some variation of a repeal bill, won’t matter all that much. Once the legislation clears the upper chamber, the Senate will form a conference committee with the House to draft an entirely new “compromise” bill. Then lawmakers will need to repeat the whole process, passing the final version of the legislation in the House, and then again in the Senate, before it lands on President Donald Trump’s desk.

To be sure, the skinny bill might not be Republicans’ only alternative. According to Reuters, Democrats are accusing Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are drafting a fourth health-care reform plan in secret. Facing united opposition from Democrats, Republicans have failed to secure the minimum 50 votes needed to pass a bill (a 50-50 split would presumably lead to a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence). With only a slim majority of 52-48, the leadership has struggled to placate both moderates, who oppose cuts to Medicaid, and conservatives, who criticized a senate plan they believed to be “Obamacare-lite.”