Less dramatic repeal of health care law gains favor in Senate

WASHINGTON — The Senate rejected a proposal Wednesday that would have repealed major parts of the Affordable Care Act, but Republican leaders were growing more confident in their chances of passing a more modest overhaul of the health care system later this week.

Republicans appeared to be coalescing around a “skinny repeal” measure that would abolish the individual and employer insurance mandates and perhaps just one tax in an attempt to sustain their seven-year quest to unwind Barack Obama’s health care law. But even if they succeed – and start negotiations with the House – they will face significant obstacles in accomplishing anything more substantial.

Top Republicans such as Sen. John Thune of South Dakota said that although leaders have not yet found “the sweet spot” between conservatives and centrists, they have picked up support for a more modest plan because it did not include deep cuts to Medicaid. Some Republican senators were simply open to any legislation that could keep alive the roller-coaster push for an overhaul.

“We’re edging closer and closer” to getting 50 votes for a bare-bones plan, Thune said. He said leaders were betting that some Republicans who defected on votes this week would feel more pressure to support any bill that emerged from negotiations with the House to face a final vote in the Senate.

“Voting on something at the end of the process when it’s the only train leaving the station . . . I think that’s a different vote for a lot of people,” he said.

SEARCHING FOR SENATE CONSENSUS

More than half-a-dozen centrists from states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act objected to the original Senate draft that was considered Tuesday night. It would have cut the program for low-income Americans by $772 billion over 10 years and curtailed its long-term growth rate.

Yet even if Republicans agree on a minimalist plan to alter the ACA, uniting with their House colleagues to enact a bill would be far…

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