Senate Republicans are preparing to vote on Obamacare repeal next week, provided this week’s work goes smoothly, according to multiple sources familiar with the negotiations.
Senators are expected to see bill text as soon as the end of this week, those sources said. The timeline could change based on the response from individual senators toward the proposal at party meetings, but Republicans are increasingly optimistic they can hold a vote next week if this week’s lunch talks go well.
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Such a timeline would mean Republicans would have about a week to review text of a bill to repeal the 2010 health care law.
Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch said he hopes Republicans have “as much time as it takes” to study the proposal. Democrats have slammed Republicans for moving so quickly and without holding public hearings.
“It’s not a light bill,” Hatch said. Asked if they will vote this month, he replied: “We could. But clearly I wonder if we could.”
There is no final deal on any of the sticking points and negotiations are still extremely fluid. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can lose just two senators in his 52-member caucus to pass the bill, with Vice President Mike Pence as a tie-breaker.
Last week, Republicans discussed insurance market stabilization in the short-term as well as how to overhaul Medicaid and wind down its expansion. One proposal being floated would phase out the law’s Medicaid expansion over three years beginning in 2020 or 2021 and eventually curb the Medicaid growth rate more strictly than the House-passed bill, but that proposal has not yet been agreed on.
This week, Republicans will discuss how far to cut Obamacare’s regulatory regime and how much to beef up the House bill’s tax credits to help people buy insurance. Conservatives want to gut the regulations as much as possible; there is more consensus on the tax credits but not necessarily how to pay for them.
There is no guarantee the legislation will pass given the party divisions. But McConnell has made clear to associates he prefers not to let the bill linger so the Senate can turn to funding the government, raising the debt ceiling and rewriting the tax code, according to people that speak with him regularly.