It’s no surprise to hear doom-and-gloom prognostications about the likelihood that Senate Republicans will pass legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act. Pessimism is the default mood in the Senate, a chamber that demands consensus even when none exists.
What’s notable about the latest predictions of failure, however, is that most of them were coming from the Republicans themselves.
“It’s unlikely that we will get a health care deal,” Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina told a local television station last week.
“I just don’t think we can put it together among ourselves,” Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina chimed in on Monday, repeating his minority view—among Republicans, at least—that the party erred by pursuing a strictly-partisan approach to health care. Several other GOP senators have voiced similar doubts in recent days, suggesting that weeks worth of closed-door discussions have yielded few breakthroughs.
Even Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader taking charge of the project, has been steadily lowering expectations for success. “I don’t know how we get to 50 (votes) at the moment,” he told Reuters last week.
Replacing Obamacare was always going to be a heavy lift in the Senate. Republicans have a narrower majority there than they do in the House and can suffer no more than two defections on any party-line vote. Senators a month ago were saddled with a House bill so unpopular that they announced they were ignoring it and starting from scratch (although the emerging alternative looks like it contains most of the same ingredients). And the ideological policy disagreements—over Medicaid, tax credits, and insurance regulations—that nearly scuttled the House effort are just as pronounced in the 52-member Senate GOP conference.