Senate Republicans hoping to get the bulk of an Obamacare repeal bill done within the next few days keep finding a new problem for every old one they get closer to resolving.
A burst of optimism that they could agree on a more generous version of the House-passed repeal bill was quickly doused by concerns over the cost. An emerging consensus on subsidies to stabilize shaky insurance markets was countered by a threat that crucial abortion restrictions could derail the effort altogether.
And looming over it all, lawmakers are still struggling to bridge the deep divide over the future of Medicaid.
“Building consensus is hard,” Sen. John Cornyn, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, said earlier this week. “We’ve all got a better idea. But pretty soon, we’re going to have to make a decision on a single bill.”
Senate Republicans are trying to hammer out all the disputes in the next couple of weeks, as they aim to write a bill that can pass with a razor-thin majority by the end of June. But already, lawmakers are finding themselves bogged down in negotiations that the GOP hoped to speed through during a series of closed-door meetings.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell aimed to finalize a draft of the repeal plan within the next few days. But senators are only starting to grapple with potentially painful tradeoffs that could make or break the GOP’s seven-year promise to repeal Obamacare.
Navigating the hurdles could soon get even tougher: Republicans are increasingly concerned that prohibitions on abortion coverage tucked into the bill could violate the strict Senate reconciliation rules that the GOP hopes to use to pass a bill with just 50 “yes” votes. That could force senators back to the drawing board on a central element of the repeal plan.