The bid by congressional Republicans to deliver President Barack Obama a bill repealing parts of the Affordable Care Act continued Wednesday with Senate floor debate throughout the day. The White House, meanwhile, formally signaled it would be vetoed.
After tweaking language from a House-passed bill to overcome a procedural hurdle, senators were pushing their version through with the budget reconciliation process, which requires only 51 votes for passage.
The legislation would eliminate the ACA's insurance subsidies, drop the mandate penalties, roll back Medicaid expansion and end some taxes that provide funding for other provisions.
The Obama administration said in a statement that the president would veto the bill with the proposed Senate amendments because it would take health insurance away from millions of Americans, cause premiums to increase and limit women's healthcare choices by eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood.
“Rather than re-fighting old political battles by once again voting to repeal basic protections that provide security for the middle class, members of Congress should be working together to grow the economy, strengthen middle-class families and create new jobs,” according to the statement.
Even the requirement of only a simple majority leaves little room for error for Republican Senate leaders. They can have no more than three defections, and they face grumbling from members on the far right and from more centrist lawmakers.
Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, along with Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, have said they would not support a Senate bill that repeals portions of the ACA without going further to dismantle the law.
Maine Sen. Susan Collins, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski also threatened to vote against the bill, voicing concerns about the bill's defunding of Planned Parenthood.
Half of the 20 Republican senators from states that expanded Medicaid are up for re-election and could face criticism for the repeal. In an effort to remedy this, states would be allowed two years to phase out their expanded coverage.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the floor Wednesday that lawmakers of both parties should work to repeal the ACA because it has been an attack on middle-class Americans.
“Americans are intimately familiar with the painful reality of Obamacare,” he said. “Americans want a fresh start. Americans want to see Washington build a bridge away from Obamacare and toward better care for them.”
Democrats took to the floor to tout the ACA's success in reducing the number of uninsured and said rolling back the law would hurt many of their constituents.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said the Republicans' efforts were merely theatrical given Obama's certain veto. "We know what the outcome is going to be," she said. "So this is really a political exercise."
Discussion is expected to continue Thursday with a vote possibly coming that evening.
Also Thursday, Paul Ryan is scheduled to deliver his first major speech as speaker of the House. The Wisconsin Republican plans to "lay out his governing philosophy and how we can renew the American idea,” according to a news release from his office.