With their Obamacare repeal plan inches from failure, Senate Republicans are white knuckling their way into the weekend. And rather than panicking over passing a bill, GOP leaders are simply trying to find the votes to begin debate on it next week.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has no margin for error. Two Republicans are already on record opposed to the key procedural motion, and a third would defeat it. McConnell and his allies are now urging GOP senators to at least let the bill get to the floor rather than preemptively killing the party’s seven-year campaign pledge to repeal Obamacare.
“We’ve worked a long time on it,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). “We’ve got a responsibility to address [problems with Obamacare] and if people have better ideas, they’ll have a virtually unlimited opportunity next week on the floor to make amendments to the bill and try to improve it.”
Republicans view a successful vote on starting debate — expected to be held as soon as Tuesday — as a victory in its own right, even if the bill dies down the road. Their strategy is to go one vote, one day at a time. And each day that a third senator, or pack of senators, doesn’t oppose the bill, it’s one day closer to an overall victory. Leadership also may be hoping that once the bill gets to the floor and faces a final vote, GOP senators will be unable to resist the pressure to repeal Obamacare.
One Republican compared the strategy to New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick’s infamous “On to Cincinnati” press conference, in which the coach ignored criticisms of the team’s 2-2 start by repeatedly focusing on the next game in Cincinnati. The Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl.