The Senate effort to undo the Affordable Care Act failed dramatically early Friday morning, with Sen. John McCain casting a deciding "no" vote. The promise of repeal has animated the Republican Party for seven years, and the defeat was a devastating loss for the GOP and President Trump.
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Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The only thing that appears certain in the Senate when it comes to health care is that there will be a vote next week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made that clear after a senators-only lunch with President Trump at the White House.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Republicans will release a discussion draft of their version of the health care bill on Thursday, with a vote likely next week.
Private health care talks have been underway in the Senate for weeks. McConnell tapped a 13-member working group last month to hash out senators' differences over the House-passed American Health Care Act. McConnell's office has since taken the lead drafting the Senate version of the party's long-promised legislation to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.
In the dream scenario outlined by party leaders back in January, President Trump would have signed legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, months ago. By early June, Republicans were supposed to be in the thick of overhauling the tax code.
Fourteen years later, Rep. Walter B. Jones still remembers with full clarity the day he started to regret his vote to go to war.
"This is the first funeral I went to that made me started thinking that I made the wrong decision of giving (President George W.) Bush the authority to go into Iraq," said Jones, pointing to a picture of Marine Sgt. Michael Bitz.
The Senate is negotiating its own legislation to repeal and replace much of the Affordable Care Act in secret talks with senators hand-picked by party leaders and with no plans for committee hearings to publicly vet the bill.
"I am encouraged by what we are seeing in the Senate. We're seeing senators leading," said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, one of the 13 Republicans involved in the private talks. "We're seeing senators working together in good faith. We're not seeing senators throwing rocks at each other, either in private or in the press."
The House of Representatives is debating the GOP bill to repeal and replace the key pillars of President Obama's health care law. This is the same bill that was pulled from the House floor just over a month ago when it was clear Republicans didn't have the votes to pass it. Now, they think they do, and the House is on track to vote on the bill early Thursday afternoon.
"The relationships that really matter in life — whether you're a teacher, whether you're a professional, whether you're a politician — are those people that are with you before you become somebody," he says.
This is how the Senate changes — not with a bang, but with a motion to overturn the ruling of the chair.
By a simple majority vote, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., set a new precedent in the Senate that will ease the confirmation for President Trump's Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch on Friday, after 30 more hours of debate on the floor.
"This will be the first, and last, partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court justice," said McConnell in a closing floor speech.
The U.S. Senate could make history this week, but no one is feeling particularly good about it.
"It is depressing; I'm very depressed," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. "We're all arguing against it, but we don't know any other option."
The nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and the GOP blockade against Merrick Garland before him are forcing another showdown over whether to invoke the "nuclear option" and change the rules of the Senate to make it easier for a president to get all of his nominations approved.
Republicans will be tested today on the strength of party unity in the Trump era and their party's ability to deliver on the promises they've made to the voters that sent them here.
"This is our chance and this is our moment. It's a big moment," House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters earlier this week. "And I think our members are beginning to appreciate just what kind of a 'rendezvous with destiny' we have right here."
President Trump made the trip up Pennsylvania Avenue to close the deal with members of his own party on a bill that, on the face of it, does what Republicans have been promising to do for years: Repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
He came with a tough love message for members of his own party.
"Looks like you'd be ripe for a primary if you don't keep your promise," the president told the group of lawmakers in a closed-door meeting, according to Rep. Blake Farenthold. "He did say that," the Texas Republican adds.
The Republican Party's most passionate pitch man for its health care bill was at it again Wednesday morning with the same message: Everything is going according to plan.
"This is the plan we ran on all of last year. This is the plan that we've been working — House, Senate, White House — together on," House Speaker Paul Ryan told FOX Business News. "Now as we get closer to finish, going through the committee process, you inevitably make those refinements and improvements as you go through that process. That's exactly where we are right now."
Republicans are looking to President Trump to use his address to Congress Tuesday evening to define the party's path forward on how to deliver on the long-promised pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare.
The White House has, so far, ceded the decision-making to congressional leaders who are trying to unify competing moderate and conservative lawmaker demands behind a plan that can pass with narrow majorities in both chambers.
Senate Republicans and conservative groups quickly rallied behind President Trump's nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, as Democrats focused on lingering anger over another jurist: Merrick Garland.
"I had hoped that President Trump would work in a bipartisan way to pick a mainstream nominee like Merrick Garland and bring the country together," Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement in which he pledged a "thorough and unsparing" confirmation process for Gorsuch.
As their first major act of the new Congress, Republicans rushed approval of a budget resolution this week that sets up a framework for repealing Obamacare, but what exactly to replace it with is still a puzzle Republicans are piecing together.
A group of Republican lawmakers, backed by law enforcement advocates, are engaged in an increasingly aggressive public clash with members of the Congressional Black Caucus over a high school work of art depicting police officers with animal heads.
The latest chapter unfolded on Tuesday when Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., held a rehanging ceremony for a painting that had been taken down last Friday by his GOP colleague, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California.
House Speaker Paul Ryan announced Thursday that Republicans will — once again — vote to cut off federal tax dollars for Planned Parenthood. They are planning to include the measure as part of a bigger upcoming bill to repeal pillars of Obamacare. This isn't the first time that they have tried to pass this type of legislation — President Obama vetoed a similar bill last January.