WATCH LIVE: Senate debates ‘skinny repeal’ of Affordable Care Act

WASHINGTON — They couldn’t pass a repeal of “Obamacare,” or find the votes for a White House-backed replacement. So now Senate Republicans are lowering their sights and trying to unite behind a so-called “skinny repeal” that would merely undo just a few of the most unpopular elements of Barack Obama’s law.

The “skinny bill” is an admittedly lowest-common-denominator approach, and it may not even have the votes to pass, either. But as Republicans search for how to keep their years-long effort to repeal and replace “Obamacare” alive, they’re coming to believe that the “skinny bill” may be the only option left.

“It still keeps it in play,” said Sen. Steve Daines of Montana. “It’s threading a needle at the moment, trying to get 51 in the United States Senate.”

President Donald Trump urged lawmakers on in a tweet Thursday morning: “Come on Republican Senators, you can do it on Healthcare. After 7 years, this is your chance to shine! Don’t let the American people down!”

The Senate strategy emerged after Republicans barely succeeded earlier this week in opening debate on health legislation in the narrowly divided Senate, winning the procedural vote to do so thanks only to Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie.

Hours of debate followed, as well a few amendment votes that starkly revealed Republicans’ divisions. On Tuesday, on a 57-43 vote with nine GOP defections, the Senate rejected a wide-ranging proposal by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to erase and replace much of the Affordable Care Act. Then on Wednesday, a straightforward repeal measure failed 55-45 with seven Republicans joining Democrats in voting “no,” even though nearly identical legislation had passed Congress two…

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