As expected, the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act, a.k.a. the “repeal without replacement” legislation that Congress enacted in 2015 knowing Barack Obama would veto it, was defeated on the Senate floor today. The margin of defeat was a bit wider than expected: 45 yeas and 55 nays, with seven Republicans voting against it. That’s a bit better than last night’s 43 votes for the main replace-and-repeal legislation, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, although technically that was a procedural vote.
What’s most interesting, particularly to the conservatives who really like this legislation and would like to use it as a club with which to smite RINO “moderates,” is that six of the seven Republicans voting “nay” on ORRA voted for virtually the same legislation in 2015: Senators Alexander, Capito, Heller, McCain, Murkowski, and Portman. Susan Collins, who has been a model of consistency, voted against it in 2015 as well.
Republican backsliding on the 2015 bill has been underway all year; unhappiness with it was a large part of what killed the basic strategy of “repeal and delay” back in January. (Several ORRA supporters, most notably Rand Paul, flip-flopped on that strategy between then and now.) So there are plenty of people vulnerable to finger-pointing and accusations of cowardice now that the Senate is “firing live ammo” instead of making empty symbolic gestures.
And thus the GOP takes another step in its long march away from its own past positions on health-care policy. Between now and Friday, when the process in the Senate now underway is tentatively scheduled to conclude after a lot more debate and many, many votes on amendments, we will learn if Republicans can find its bearings at all, or just kick the can down the road to a House-Senate conference committee.