Alaska’s two senators voted opposite each other on the “motion to proceed” on consideration of health care reform legislation, including a repeal of Obamacare.
WHAT THE PROCEDURAL VOTE DID
The Senate voted, 50-50, to start debate on the Obamacare repeal. Without Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s vote, Vice President Pence cast the tie-breaking vote, bringing the total to 51 yeas.
The vote was simply to debate legislation on health care and vote on it.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
The debates will begin. There are three bills in play: A straight repeal of Obamacare, a repeal of the individual mandate, and a replacement of Obamacare. No one can be sure which will pass, if any of them do.
The Senate will start with 20 hours of debate and then senators can propose amendments to the House bill. The first amendment will likely be the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act — repealing most of Obamacare and providing no replacement. The second up is the Better Care Reconciliation Act, which completely rewrites Obamacare but would require 60 votes to pass.
Both of those will probably not pass.
The last major amendment could be the “skinny repeal,” which simply repeals the law that requires Americans to buy health insurance — the individual mandate. The skinny repeal has the highest likelihood of passing, according to some pundits.
WHAT THEY SAID
Sen. Dan Sullivan voted to proceed with debate. His statement:
“I’m heartened that my colleagues in the Senate kept their promises to their constituents to begin the process to repeal and repair the Affordable Care Act. Now, the Senate will start an open amendment process that will begin to consider various solutions to address the harm being done by this act.
“Since December, I have met with and heard from thousands of Alaskans and I’ve taken their concerns into account throughout this process. While many Alaskans received coverage under Obamacare, more than 23,000 declined to buy outrageously expensive plans they can’t even use, many of them opting instead to pay a fine to the federal government. This is unacceptable.
“As the Senate considers legislation and amendments, I will continue to focus on repealing Obamacare’s taxes and mandates, and work to increase support for rural states, like Alaska, with extremely high insurance costs. I will also continue to work to put Medicaid on a sustainable and equitable path, with maximum flexibility given to states to tailor systems that meet their residents’ needs. Lastly, I will continue to fight for significant resources to combat the opioid epidemic taking place in Alaska and across the country.
“As we go forward, I will continue to relentlessly advocate for Alaska’s interests and will not vote for a bill that makes things worse for Alaskans.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski voted not to proceed on Obamacare — either to repeal or replace.
and has not yet issued a statement. (We will update this if she does). She issued this statement:
“I have repeatedly said that healthcare reform, and especially major entitlement reform, should go through the committee process where stakeholders can weigh in and ideas can be vetted in a bipartisan forum.
“I voted ‘no’ today to give the Senate another chance to take this to the committee process.
“I still believe that’s the best route, but we will now have this debate on the open floor. We all recognize that we have much work to do to address the healthcare concerns in this country. My commitment is to work with all of my colleagues in the Senate to find solutions that benefit all Americans by increasing access and reducing the cost of care.”
Murkowski sits on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, which is run by the Republican majority, with Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennesee as chair.
On July 18, she gave this statement, which refers to the committee process:
“As I’ve been saying, the Senate should take a step back and engage in a bipartisan process to address the failures of the ACA and stabilize the individual markets. That will require members on both sides of the aisle to roll up their sleeves and take this to the open committee process where it belongs.
“The individual market in states like Alaska and in rural communities across America has continued to deteriorate since we last voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Alaskans have seen their premiums increase over 200 percent, only one insurer remains on our individual market, and the state was forced to enact a costly reinsurance program to keep our sole remaining provider from leaving.”
“At the same time, the coverage offered on the exchange has become coverage in name only for too many Alaskans with premiums close to $1,000 a month on average and many facing deductibles approaching $10,000. Repealing the ACA without a clear path forward just creates confusion and greater uncertainty.”
“As I stated earlier this year, I cannot vote to proceed to repeal the ACA without reform that allows people the choice they want, the affordability they need and the quality of care they deserve.”
Alaska Republican Party Chairman Tuckerman Babcock also issued a statement today:
“At his press conference this afternoon, President Donald Trump said: ‘This is the beginning of the end for the disaster known as Obamacare.’
“As chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, I applaud the 50 votes from Republican senators in favor of moving forward toward repeal of Obamacare. I am thankful that Vice President Mike Pence cast the deciding vote to break the tie in favor of moving forward with this effort.
“I am proud of the ‘Yes’ vote from Senator Dan Sullivan.
“I am dismayed by the ‘No’ vote by Alaska’s senior senator.
“Fellow Republicans, please join me in continuing to urge our senior senator to join the work to proactively repeal Obamacare. We hope is that as debate continues our senator will become convinced to join her colleagues to move forward to repeal Obamacare.
“This is not only a specific plank of our Alaska Republican Party platform, it is a promise, a unified message that Republicans have made in every election, at every level, since 2010.
“Americans have rewarded our team with the Presidency, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. We must keep our promise to the American people: repeal Obamacare!
“I encourage all Alaska Republicans to email, call or write Senators Murkowski and Sullivan, urging both to work together for Alaska to do whatever is necessary to repeal Obamacare.”