Two GOP Senators Reject ‘Clean Repeal’ They Supported in 2015

Capito, Murkowski hammered for reversal on health care after defections threaten to leave Obamacare intact

by Brendan Kirby | Updated 18 Jul 2017 at 10:24 PM

Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowki and Shelley Moore Capito railed against Obamacare and just a year and half ago cast votes to repeal it.

But that was then.

On Tuesday, they announced their opposition to a nearly identical approach to the one they embraced in December 2015. That, along with opposition from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) — who at least can claim consistency, since she voted “no” in 2015 — appeared to deliver the final blow to efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

After it became clear that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did not have the votes to proceed to debate on his plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, he offered a 2015-style plan to repeal the law but delay its implementation for two years while Congress comes up with a new law.

But Plan B's prospects withered when Alaska's Murkowski and West Virginia's Capito joined Collins in opposition.

"This whole process has really lanced a boil," said ForAmerica president David Bozell, grumbling about the GOP's moderate wing. "I'm glad it's coming out … They make a mockery out of the Republican platform while insulting conservatives every step of the way."

Bozell said Collins and Murkowski seem to be operating under the assumption that Republicans want their brand of moderation.

"If that were the case," he said, "then [Ohio Gov.] John Kasich would be president of the United States."

McConnell Commits to Vote
Although repeal seems dead, McConnell told reporters that he would put every senator on record by scheduling a vote on a bill modeled after the 2015 legislation.

"That's a vote we're very likely to have in the very near future," he said.

It is not just conservative activists who expressed frustration Tuesday at moderate Republicans. President Donald Trump told reporters that he was disappointed at the outcome even as he held out hope for returning to health care at some point in the future.

"I don't think it's dead, no, but I'm certainly disappointed," he said. "For seven years, I've been hearing 'repeal and replace' from Congress. I've been hearing it loud and strong. And then, when we finally get a chance to repeal and replace, they don't take advantage of it. So that's disappointing."

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told reporters on Capitol Hill that his colleagues should honor their long-standing promises.

"If you're not willing to vote the same way you voted in 2015," he said, "then you need to go back home and explain to Republicans why you're no longer for repealing Obamacare."

Murkowski told the Alaska Dispatch News on Tuesday that she was "not there … I said in January we should not repeal without a replacement, and just an indefinite hold on this just creates more chaos and confusion."

Capito expressed similar sentiments in a statement Tuesday, explaining that she "cannot vote to repeal Obamacare without a replacement plan that addresses my concerns and the needs of West Virginians."

It was a different story in 2015. During debate of the repeal bill then, Murkowski criticized high deductibles and rapidly rising premiums since the Affordable Care Act took effect.

"The ACA repeal bill that we're currently debating addresses this problem by reducing the penalty for not buying insurance, reduces it down to zero," she said. "Alaskans would be able to choose to buy insurance or simply to save the thousands of dollars that they'd be paying every month. That money could be spent on medical bills as needed but would be available to the families to use as they see fit."

Capito touted her vote in 2015 as well.

"Americans deserve a health care system that works for them, and Obamacare is not it," she said in a statement then. "I have consistently voted to repeal and replace this disastrous health care law, and I am glad that a repeal bill will finally reach the president's desk. This legislation will enable us to revisit the problems caused by Obamacare and replace them with reforms that provide quality, affordable care for all Americans."

Senators Blasted for 'Contradicting Themselves'
Rachael Slobodien, a spokeswoman for Club for Growth, blasted Murkowski and Capito for "completely contradicting themselves and their promise to their constituents." She said there is value in holding the vote even if it fails.

"That will do a lot to expose their true intentions," she said. "It really is discouraging they are willing to abandon that now that the rubber has met the road." (go to page 2 to continue reading)

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