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Senate Republicans Getting Closer on Health Care

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., says that “folks are coming around’ on backing the motion to proceed on the health care debate.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., says that “folks are coming around’ on backing the motion to proceed on the health care debate.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Republican leaders on Tuesday continued to zero in on their goal of getting 50 votes to proceed to legislation to redo the U.S. health care system. 

Sen. John Thune, the No. 3 in GOP leadership, said “folks are coming around” on backing the motion to proceed on health care debate, but the South Dakotan declined to predict victory on today’s vote. If leadership prevails on the vote, the Senate will keep alive efforts to repeal or repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Rand Paul said Tuesday on Twitter he would vote yes on the procedural vote to begin debate in the Senate on the Republican health care bill, saying that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had informed him the Senate would take up a bill that would simply repeal the 2010 legislation.

That Senate Republican plan would require 60 votes to pass, the Kentucky Republican said.

Republicans got a boost when Arizona Sen. John McCain said Monday he will return to the Senate chamber in time for the key procedural vote.

The Arizona Republican announced last week he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an often fatal form of brain cancer.

Among some of the outstanding issues to resolve is language on abortion. 

Senate Republicans are working to adapt two key anti-abortion provisions in the Senate health care bill in an effort to salvage the language and please conservative groups.

On Friday, Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough said the language that blocks Medicaid reimbursements for Planned Parenthood and prevents tax credits from being used for insurance that covers abortion would violate budget reconciliation rules as currently written.

While the language defunding Planned Parenthood previously passed muster with the parliamentarian as part of other debates, the language banning tax credits from being used to purchase insurance that includes abortion coverage is new.

In an informal guidance, both provisions were deemed Byrd rule violations under budget rules by MacDonough. The Byrd rule prevents the inclusion of language that doesn’t affect spending or revenues, or whose main purpose is to affect policy while the budget impacts are merely incidental.

Mary Ellen McIntire, Sandhya Raman and Ellyn Ferguson contributed to this story.

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