US senate vote on ‘skinny’ repeal of Obamacare goes down to the wire

Some holdout Republicans had agreed to vote for repeal only on condition that it will trigger a congressional conference committee

Lindsey Graham, center, called the healthcare bill a ‘disaster’. Photograph: Aaron P Bernstein/Reuters

Senate Republican leaders unveiled their so-called “skinny repeal” bill – denounced by conservatives as a “fraud” and a “disaster” – in an eleventh-hour push to pass a pared-down repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

After three days of debate and seven years of promises to repeal Barack Obama’s healthcare law, Republicans introduced a far less ambitious measure that the leadership hoped would muster at least 50 votes.

The bill was made public minutes before 10pm EDT on Thursday night, giving senators only a few hours to review the measure before voting on it.

But three hours later drama continued on the Senate floor with no resolution and what appeared to be ongoing lobbying of holdout Republicans.

Republican senators had made clear that they did not expect – and did not want – the bill to become law. Instead, they were hoping it would trigger a conference committee, where they can enter into negotiations with the House on a much broader plan to repeal and replace the 2010 healthcare law.

But as the hours of debate wound down toward a vote, it remained unclear whether Republican leaders could win the support of 50 of the 52 members in their conference. Some Republicans expressed concern that the bill could become law if the two chambers were unable to agree on more comprehensive plan.

In a new analysis released roughly an hour after the bill was filed, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Committee estimated that 15 million people would lose coverage and premiums would rise by 20% compared to current law.

Senate leadership had touted the “skinny” bill as a mechanism to force a conference committee with the House, taking time to hash out a compromise. As rumblings grew that the House might simply put the bill to…

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