By Jeffrey Young —
The death of the Affordable Care Act has never been nearer after Senate Republicans voted to begin formal debate on legislation that would strip health care coverage from millions of Americans.
The Senate adopted a procedural motion on Tuesday enabling the upper chamber to move ahead with one of several measures that would repeal major portions of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. Things could move swiftly from here, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he wants a final vote on health care legislation to take place before the end of the week.
The measure passed 51 to 50, with every Republican senator except Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) voting in favor. All 46 Democrats and both independents in the Senate opposed it. Vice President Mike Pence cast a tie-breaking vote in his constitutional capacity as president of the Senate.
Heading into Tuesday’s vote, it was highly uncertain that McConnell would have enough votes to take Obamacare repeal over this first hurdle. This first vote was a real test of whether Senate Republicans were committed to undoing the Affordable Care Act, increasing the number of uninsured Americans by millions or even tens of millions and disrupting the health insurance market in ways that would disadvantage older, poorer and sicker people.
Republican senators who voted for this motion did so without having any idea what legislation they were about to move on to.
At least three options appear to be on the table, and each of them might be debated on the Senate floor.