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Senate Republicans admit defeat - for now - on health care, and move on to tax reform

Published: Tuesday, September 26, 2017 @ 11:00 AM

Unable to squeeze out enough votes for a last-ditch plan to overhaul the Obama health law, Republicans in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday announced that they would not force a vote this week on a GOP plan that would block grant money to the states, and allow individual states to determine how best to cover individuals who don't get health insurance coverage through a job.

After a closed door meeting, Republican Senators told reporters that they were not giving up on health care reform, but that it was not going to be approved before a Saturday deadline for action under a special budget process.

"We know what we don't like," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said. "Obamacare is not working - we make that case very effectively."

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"But we've had a hard time articulating what we are for - until now," Graham added.

"We don't have the votes," said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), who had tried his best to cajole and convince GOP Senators to get on board with his plan in recent months.

"We've made the decision that since we don't have the votes, we will postpone that vote," Cassidy said to reporters. "Am I disappointed? Absolutely."

But the decision also helped to take the pressure off individual GOP Senators - like Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) - who had yet to announce their position on the Graham-Cassidy legislation, giving them some wiggle room for any future negotiations, and Republican efforts to change the Obama health law.

The decision not to have a vote this week also allows the GOP and the White House to switch gears, and start talking about tax reform - as the outlines of a Republican plan will be unveiled on Wednesday.

That video comment from the Senate Majority Leader contains a little bit of Capitol Hill mumbo-jumbo that needs a bit of explanation, as moving to tax reform is not as easy as Republican leaders and the President make it out to be, in terms of getting final House and Senate votes on a tax bill.

As with health care, the White House wants to use the process known as "budget reconciliation" to move a tax reform package in coming months, in order to avoid the possibility of a Senate filibuster - that means the House and Senate must approve a budget outline for 2018, known as a 'budget resolution,' which would authorize the use of the reconciliation process.

So far, the budget resolution seems to be short on votes in the House - where the plan has been on hold since late July, in a dispute among GOP lawmakers over how to force extra savings in future entitlement program spending.

So, before the GOP can start work on tax reform, they will need to find the magic formula to get a budget resolution through the House and Senate.

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