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Democratic Socialists of America activists protesting against Republican-proposed cuts to federal health care programs on July 5 in New York City.
Congress is in recess right now, which means that senators who are undecided on the Republican health care bill are grudgingly taking questions about it from constituents/local reporters while they kill time before their debauched steakhouse dinners with the wealthy regional lumber barons, car wash tycoons, and convenience store millionaires who fund their campaigns. The Senate is back in session next week, though, and will be for the rest of July, so eventually GOP fence-sitters will have to make some decisions. Here are the latest developments on that front:
- North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven and Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran have said in recent days that they don’t support the bill as it currently stands. Both are party stalwarts from safe seats.
- Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a relative centrist, says she does not support an amendment to the bill proposed by hardline Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Utah Sen. Mike Lee. Lee, meanwhile, says he won’t vote for the bill if it doesn’t include his amendment.
- Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey are saying that no vote will be held on any version of the bill until the second half of the month.
- Majority leader Mitch McConnell is floating the possibility that the bill won’t pass and suggesting that, if it doesn’t, bipartisan legislation will be required to stabilize prices on state-level Obamacare insurance exchanges. (This would seem to contrafict the stated policy of the White House, which has promised to "let Obamacare explode" if no replacement is passed.)
If you recall, Republicans can only afford to lose the votes of two members of their 52-member caucus. Given the above, and the reservations expressed by other prominent senators before the July 4th break, it seems very unlikely that a bill is going to get passed next week. That said, no one is talking seriously yet about giving up on the effort to pass some sort of Obamacare replacement. McConnell may have alluded to the possibility, but he’s also an inscrutable legislative genius, and one could read his comments as a threat—if we don’t get our act together, we’ll have to work with Democrats to spend money!—rather than pessimism. To be continued …