Hours after the Senate was gaveled back into session, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was handed devastating news Monday evening: Two more defections on his health care bill that could doom the entire effort for the foreseeable future.
The dramatic simultaneous announcement from Sens. Jerry Moran of Kansas and Mike Lee of Utah means McConnell officially does not have the votes to even begin debate on his legislation to overhaul Obamacare.
In announcing their opposition to the bill, Moran and Lee said they would vote “no” on the motion to proceed — a vote that McConnell had hoped to hold this week but was already forced to postpone due to Arizona Sen. John McCain’s absence from Washington.
“We should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy. Furthermore, if we leave the federal government in control of everyday healthcare decisions, it is more likely that our healthcare system will devolve into a single-payer system, which would require a massive federal spending increase,” Moran said in a statement.
In a stark sign of just how grave his concerns are about the bill, Moran went as far as to call for a “fresh” start and an “open legislative process.”
Prior to Monday, there were two other Senate Republicans who had said they would vote against the revised health care bill: Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan Collins of Maine. This meant McConnell could not afford even one more opposing senator.
Over the weekend, McCain’s office revealed that the veteran senator had surgery to remove a blood clot from above his eye, forcing him to stay back at home in Arizona. Shy one “yes” vote on the motion to proceed, the majority leader announced that he would “defer” consideration of the health care bill while his colleague recovered.
Now, with the announcement from Moran and Lee, even if McCain were to return to Washington, McConnell would be unable to move his legislation to the Senate floor.
McConnell had hoped that Lee — who had opposed the first version of the Senate bill — would be won over by the addition of an amendment spearheaded by Sen. Ted Cruz. The provision would allow some insurers to offer cheaper and skimpier plans unregulated under Obamacare.
But while it was enough to win Cruz’s support, the amendment — which Lee said was not exactly what he had asked for — couldn’t change Lee’s mind.
“In addition to not repealing all of the Obamacare taxes, it doesn’t go far enough in lowering premiums for middle class families; nor does it create enough free space from the most costly Obamacare regulations,” Lee said in a statement.