Last-minute momentum shift puts Senate majority within reach for Republicans
The Senate’s unexpected change of mind on the health care bill was enough to pull off a major victory for Republicans Tuesday night.
For weeks, GOP leaders had been looking for an unexpected moment to win a decisive victory for their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.
They finally found it in a debate over a Senate floor amendment to allow states to opt out of many of the mandates imposed by the Affordable Care Act on insurers — and on customers who have employer-based insurance.
It came by the simplest of tricks: The Senate left the 60-vote threshold for final passage in place, and then voted on a motion that each side got to filibuster — meaning at least 20 of the 51 Senate Democrats and 20 of the 52 Senate Republicans could use procedural tactics to block a full vote on the Senate floor.
“We think we can do it,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said after the vote.
A similar tactic was used in 2013 to clear the way to passage of an immigration provision, with the same bipartisan coalition standing up and blocking the filibuster.
That’s always the best way to get the majority in a majority of the chamber.
“There were two big things. One is the debate, where we basically talked out loud what we wanted, what we thought, what the alternative was and so forth,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said in a postgame interview with reporters.
“The second thing was making sure we’d get a majority and that we’d be ready to go on to the floor and vote right then and there.”
The decision to take a procedural vote on the Senate floor this time was made by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who was the presiding officer. But with President Donald Trump, who had been watching the proceedings from the Senate floor, deciding to come to the Senate floor for a short meeting at the end of the debate, it was only a matter of time before Manchin decided that now was the moment to move forward.
The surprise is that Manchin would take the plunge, but Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, had been hinting for a while that Manchin would decide to go for this move.
“We haven’t had the opportunity