Senate prepares to vote on ‘skinny repeal’ of Obamacare

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., at long last introduced the text of his “skinny repeal” health care plan for a midnight vote.

The bill dramatically scales back the conference’s initial ambitions to repeal and replace Obamacare, and Republican senators who plan to vote for it openly admit they do not want it to become law because it would be a “disaster” for individual insurance markets.

But Senate Republican leadership are pitching the legislation as a “first step” that will eventually lead to a better plan in a House-Senate conference committee.

The replace plan, called the Health Care Freedom Act, repeals the individual mandate altogether and the employer mandate for 7 years. It also increases the amount of money people can contribute to tax-free health savings accounts, and bans Medicaid reimbursements for Planned Parenthood for one year. The plan also loosens up the federal government’s oversight of what kind of insurance plans states can sell on the insurance exchanges. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill would result in 15 million fewer people having insurance than under current law, most from people defecting from the insurance exchanges.

The Senate is planning to take the first vote on the legislation at around midnight. After that, Democrats and Republicans may offer amendments for as long as they want. When Democrats are tired of attempting to amend the legislation, McConnell may offer up the original legislation for a final vote, likely in the wee hours of Friday morning.

Democrats took to the Senate floor to protest the legislation. “No one can justify the process,” Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. said of the Republicans’ closed-door negotiations. “A process that bends our traditions and breaks our values.” He pointed out that the Senate would have to vote on legislation members have only seen for a few minutes.

It’s unclear if McConnell has enough votes to pass the skinny repeal…

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