WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan assured nervous Republican senators on a conference call Thursday night that he would send their “skinny repeal” of Obamacare to a conference instead of passing it into law.
As a vote neared Thursday night or early Friday morning on a proposed “skinny repeal” of Obamacare, three key Republican senators said they would only vote for it if they are assured it won’t actually become law.
The three — Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., John McCain, R-Ariz., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis.— said they needed Ryan’s word that he would not take up their legislation, pass it and send it to the president’s desk. They instead want the bill to be fixed in a House-Senate conference.
Ryan later released an ambiguous statement saying he was “willing” to go to conference if that’s the only way to move forward. “The reality, however, is that repealing and replacing Obamacare still ultimately requires the Senate to produce 51 votes for an actual plan,” Ryan said. He added that the House would expect the Senate to vote first on whatever the conference committee produces.
At around 9:30 p.m. Thursday, Graham, Johnson and a few other senators held a conference call with Ryan during which he personally assured them that he would send the bill to a House-Senate conference instead of immediately passing it. It is unclear, however, if Ryan also promised he would not pass the legislation later down the road, if that conference does not produce legislation.
“I just wanted to hear it right from Paul, we all [did],” Johnson told reporters. Those in the room are now on board with the legislation, he said.
While McCain was not in the room, he spoke to the Speaker separately, according to Johnson. He did not answer reporters questions about where he stood late Thursday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is expected to kick off a late-night “vote-a-rama,” which would roll back a handful of key provisions of Obamacare but…