What’s Next for Obamacare Repeal After Friday’s Failed Vote?

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Getty President Donald Trump holds a news conference in the East Room of the White House July 26, 2017 in Washington, DC.

The United States Senate on Friday once again failed to repeal and replace Obamacare. In the middle of the night, three Republicans helped sink the Health Care Freedom Act, which was also being referred to as “skinny repeal” because it was such a simplified Obamacare repeal measure that did not provide any replacement. Now that three Obamacare repeal efforts have failed in one week, and the House of Representatives is about to leave for its recess, is the Republican movement to repeal and replace Obamacare dead?

That’s certainly what it sounded like when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said following the failed health care vote on Friday, “Now, Mr. President, it’s time to move on.”

But on Friday, Representative Mark Meadows told Fox News that he recently spoke with President Trump and that Republicans are going to try to bring up a new health care bill in a few weeks.

“I can tell you, the president as you mentioned is already engaged this morning,” Meadows said. “We’re going to go back to work to make sure that we get a bill. Really, what we were talking about last night was passing something to allow us to bring up a bill in a couple of weeks. So now we just work on that perfect bill, make sure that we bring it forward. I’m optimistic we can still get it done.”

What Meadows is referring to is the fact that the “skinny repeal” bill was not popular even among the Republicans who voted for it, as it mostly just repealed Obamacare’s mandates without taking steps to replace the health care law. But the argument among Senate Republicans was that they should vote for the bill just as a vehicle to start negotiations with the House of Representatives in a conference committee. That’s what happens when the House and the Senate pass two different versions of a piece of legislation, and so the Senate would essentially be voting for something they don’t really like just so they can set in motion the process of working with the House on a bill that’s actually good.

That effort failed, but now the plan is evidently for Republicans to work on a new bill that can be brought forward in a few weeks; at least, this is what President Trump wants to happen. It remains to be seen what kind of bill could actually pass in the Senate, though, as it has become clear that Senate Republicans have fundamental disagreements about the future of health care in the United States.

Still, it wasn’t too long ago that health care talks seemed to be dead in the House of Representatives, only for them to resume. In March, House Republicans had to postpone an Obamacare repeal vote because the bill was not going to pass. At the time, this was speculated to be the end of Obamacare repeal in the House. Two months later, House Republicans successfully passed the American Health Care Act.

Some Republicans, including those who voted against “skinny repeal” like John McCain, are now talking about trying to get Democratic help in the health care replacement efforts rather than strictly relying on Republican support.

“We must now return to the correct way of legislating and send the bill back to committee, hold hearings, receive input from both sides of aisle, heed the recommendations of nation’s governors, and produce a bill that finally delivers affordable health care for the American people,” McCain said in a statement on Friday. “We must do the hard work our citizens expect of us and deserve.”

One setback here is the fact that the House is about to leave for its August recess. July 28th is the last day before the House of Representatives’ recess, which is why the Senate was up at 1:30 a.m. trying to pass Obamacare repeal at the last minute. The Senate’s recess was recently delayed until the third week of August, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has advised members of the House to be ready to potentially come back if the Senate passes something in that time, according to Politico. It seems extremely unlikely the Senate will be able to get a bill passed in the next two weeks, though, and then they’re off until September 5th.

Once Congress returns in early September, it sounds like the health care talks will resume, and Mark Meadows says that President Trump isn’t abandoning his promise.

“The president is staying in on this fight,” Meadows told Fox News. “He’s going to deliver. He made it very clear this morning.”

At the same time, President Trump suggested this morning that Congress should do nothing and just watch Obamacare “implode,” letting the Democrats be blamed for it. This is sentiment he has expressed in the past.

Later in the morning, Trump said that any future Obamacare repeal efforts should be passed with 51 votes, not 60, suggesting he doesn’t agree that Democratic support is necessary.