Senate mulls bare-bones healthcare bill; marathon of voting expected

By Yasmeen Abutaleb and Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senate Republicans embarked on Thursday on another push to unravel Obamacare, working on a stripped-down bill after failing to pass broader legislation and complete a seven-year campaign to gut a law that extended health coverage to millions.

Republicans leaders hope a so-called skinny bill can draw enough votes to pass despite unified Democratic opposition. This would repeal a few key provisions of Democratic former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law without being a far-reaching overhaul.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the other Republican leaders had still not unveiled the contents of this bare-bones legislation ahead of an expected marathon succession of votes that promises to drag into Friday morning.

The skinny bill is expected to eliminate requirements under the 2010 Affordable Care Act that individuals obtain health insurance or face a fine and that businesses with more than 50 employees provide medical coverage, and to abolish a tax on medical device manufacturers.

“I urge everyone to keep working hard so we can get this over the finish line,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

“The moment before us is one that many of us have waited for and talked about for a very long time,” he added.

Republican senators were expected to hammer out provisions of the measure during a policy lunch on Thursday, giving lawmakers scant hours to digest its provisions before voting. Republican leaders have been sending pieces of the legislation to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office to assess its impact and determine whether it complies with Senate rules.

The House of Representatives passed its own broad healthcare overhaul bill in May. Senator Lamar Alexander said the skinny bill itself “is not a solution” to resolving what he sees as the problems with Obamacare. But he urged fellow Republican senators to pass it in order to set up a committee of House and Senate lawmakers to meld the…

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