The number of Republican senators voicing opposition to the congressional Republican leadership's plan to "repeal and delay" has reached five, making it impossible to pass a resolution calling for immediate repeal if they actually put their money where their mouth is.
Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) has joined a group of senators supporting an amendment to extend a key deadline by over a month.
"This amendment will ensure that we move forward with a smart, responsible plan to replace the law as quickly as possible,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) in a statement announcing the measure. He was joined by Bob Corker (R-TN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Bill Cassidy (R-LA.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in introducing the proposal.
The budget resolution, which was introduced last week, gives the committees until Jan. 27 to submit their repeal bills for the next steps in the legislative process.
The amendment supported by Republican senators would give committees until March 3rd to submit their proposals which, if you've paid any attention at all over the past eight years, you know is not nearly enough time.
It took nearly two years to pass Obamacare and not just because it required an inordinate amount of cat herding in Congress. Healthcare policy is enormously complex and features thousands of interconnected, moving parts.
Moreover, by the time March 3rd rolls around, we'll be less than two months away from the expiration of the continuing resolution for fiscal 2017 that funds the federal government. By that time, congressional Republicans will not have even begun holding formal hearings to discuss fiscal 2018. Even a functional Congress that wasn't governed by the He Man Woman Hater's Club would struggle to restructure our entire healthcare system and advance a budget for two fiscal years simultaneously.
The longer a vote to repeal Obamacare is delayed, the less likely it becomes in the current year. A real replacement is not going to congeal within the span of a couple months.
Millions of conservative voters across the country are suddenly learning that the "Obamacare" they hate is actually the Affordable Care Act they know and love. The longer this continues, the more time there will be for voters to make the connection. Dragging out the repeal process until this Summer could kill the entire effort.
To be clear, I still believe they will repeal the law, but I'm not quite as sure as I was even a week ago. We could all be underestimating Republican incompetence. We could also be underestimating their willingness to press ahead and worry about the consequences later.
Republicans have backed themselves into a corner by pledging to repeal the law and replace it with something better that provides equal or greater coverage. Short of single-payer healthcare, there is no such alternative.