Mitch McConnell’s Plan B on Health Care Appears Dead

Murkowski joins Collins and Capito to oppose proceeding on measure

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowskisays she would vote against the current GOP repeal-only plan, giving opponents the necessary votes to block the measure. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does not have the votes necessary to pass a bill to repeal portions of the 2010 health care law, the Kentucky Republican’s “Plan B” following the failure of the GOP plan to overhaul the U.S. health insurance markets.

Three Republican senators — Maine’s Susan Collins, West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski — have all stated their intentions to vote against a procedural motion that would allow McConnell to bring up a 2015 measure that would end the law’s Medicaid expansion and repeal other portions of it starting in two years.

McConnell could only afford to lose the support of two Republicans.

“For months, I have expressed reservations about the direction of the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare,” Capito said in a statement. “I cannot vote to repeal Obamacare without a replacement plan that addresses my concerns and the needs of West Virginians.”

Murkowski told reporters on Tuesday she would vote “no” on a motion to proceed to the House-passed health care bill that McConnell said he would bring up in the coming days. 

Collins told reporters that Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander of Tennessee should begin to hold hearings to look at “what we can do to fix the many egregious flaws” in the health care law.

The chamber might shift gears to try to work with Democrats to find a way to stabilize the individual market.

“We still have the same problems that we were trying to solve, so now this means that I suspect there will be discussions on a bipartisan bill,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas told reporters Tuesday. “To me, that’s unfortunate, in a sense, because I think the Democrats are strongly committed to Obamacare and are unwilling to admit the structural problems which create the problems we are having in the individual market today.”

Democrats took issue with such characterizations. 

“The door to bipartisanship is open right now. Republicans only need to walk through it,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York said on the floor Tuesday.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.