Republicans are struggling for how to advance health care legislation
Many GOP senators have run on a promise to repeal and replace Obamacare
Several members of the Senate Republican leadership said Monday they expect there will be a vote on a health care bill, even if the tense negotiations underway now to find consensus in the Republican conference are unsuccessful and leaders are unable to forge an agreement that can pass.
Sen. John Thune of South Dakota said it is important they try to pass a bill in the next few weeks even if the vote fails.
“I still think in the end there is a huge reason why we have to get to 50 on this,” said Thune, the third-ranking GOP leader. “Obviously, we’re going to have a vote on this one way or the other. But if we don’t pass something and we go into ’18, you know, it’s on us to try to get this fixed.”
Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, another GOP leader, was asked about recent downbeat assessments from other Republican senators – like Richard Burr of North Carolina, who said he didn’t think a deal could be reached this year.
“I think the leader is still optimistic about it and we’ll see where it goes here in the next few days,” Blunt said, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is leading the talks.
Asked if this is “crunch time,” Blunt said yes.
“I don’t think this gets better over time, so my personal view is that we’ve got between now and the Fourth of July to decide whether the votes are there or not and hope they are,” he added.
A defeat could be embarrassing to Republicans, who have long pushed the repeal and replacement of Obamacare. But having a vote – even if it fails – could provide some closure on the issue and allow the GOP-controlled Congress to move onto other issues like government spending, the debt ceiling and more.
Sen. John Cornyn, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, also told reporters Monday his caucus is reaching a time to “make decisions.”
“I know there’s been a lot of work done at the staff level but I think we’re getting to the point where … we need to make decisions and I think we’re ready to land this airplane. It’s been in the air for seven years and it’s time to come in for a landing – hopefully a soft landing,” the Texas senator said.
Asked about Burr’s grim assessment Friday, Cornyn said: “Suffice it to say, I’m a little more optimistic.”