A motion on a healthcare amendment that would have repealed and replaced portions of Obamacare failed Tuesday in the Senate.
The motion was on the Better Care Reconciliation Act amendment, and was shot down after 57 senators voted against a procedural move regarding whether it complies with the Budget Act. Had they voted differently, the amendment would only have required 50 votes for passage, but the latest move effectively kills the amendment.
In coming days the Senate is debating and voting on other amendments for a healthcare bill advanced by Republicans. Because they are using a measure known as reconciliation, most amendments will require only 50 votes for passage. This particular amendment, however, needs the traditional 60 votes because portions of it have not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office.
The bill was expected to fail because several Republicans have come out publicly against it, and because it did not have any Democratic support. Republicans hold only two additional seats in the Senate, making a 60-vote goal unlikely.
The amendment is the first of dozens that the Senate will be voting on in coming days, and the second that was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
The Better Care Reconciliation Act is the bill Republicans have been debating among themselves for several months and includes an amendment by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, known as the "Consumer Freedom Amendment." It would allow insurers to offer cheaper plans that cover a smaller range of benefits as long as they offer one plan that has the essential health benefits included under Obamacare. The provision has been controversial among Republicans who say that it would make coverage for people with pre-existing illnesses prohibitively expensive.
"Americans know this as a 'fake insurance amendment,'" said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., while claiming on the Senate floor that the amendment would make policies worthless.
Cruz countered on the Senate floor that "scaremongering" was occurring and took issue with people having to purchase unsubsidized plans with a wide-range of medical benefits under Obamacare that they cannot afford.
A second provision contained in the amendment, which also required 60 votes, was called the Medicaid wraparound. Backed by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, the amendment provided $200 billion to the Medicaid program and was aimed at addressing the concerns of other senators who were on the fence but ultimately voted to support the motion to proceed, such as GOP Sens. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Dean Heller of Nevada. All had said that they would debate the bill but wanted to ensure that people on Medicaid would be protected.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters earlier on Tuesday that another option to still include the provisions would be to send the bill to conference with the House, which would buy more time for a CBO score on both amendments.
Still, a final hurdle would remain: The Senate parliamentarian has not made a determination on whether the provisions meet reconciliation rules, which require that the bill target only items that have to do with the federal budget. Several other provisions that Republicans have discussed and will consider in coming days also would not pass this test, including anti-abortion provisions, a measure to charge seniors higher premiums, and a provision that would let small businesses bypass Obamacare insurance rules.