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Senate Will Resume Its Health Care Battle After July 4 Holiday


Senators head off to the Fourth of July parades and fireworks this weekend after trying and failing to do something they spent the past seven years promising - to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. We're going to begin this hour with NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis. Sue, thanks for being with us.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: So where does this stand now?

DAVIS: Where it stands is the Senate and the House adjourned for the July Fourth recess no closer to finding a compromise on how to pass a health care bill. That bill now rests in the Senate, where Mitch McConnell had hoped to bring it up for a vote before this break and hoped to get it to the president's desk even before this break. But his own party revolted on him, that there is no consensus in the Senate yet on how you can get a bill that can pass that chamber.

SIMON: What about the president's suggestion in a tweet that they might vote to overturn the Affordable Care Act before they have a plan to replace it and that would be fine with him?

DAVIS: That has not gone over super well with members of Congress. I would note that this was actually the original plan. This was the plan after the election that they wanted to do repeal first and then come up with a replacement later. The president himself took that idea off the table back in January. So this was already plan B. So suggesting that they should go back to plan A at this stage of the game is just simply not realistic.

Not to mention that if you were to repeal this law without being able to tell the public what you're going to replace it with, you're also sort of saying that you're going to need Democrats to do that process. And once you start negotiating with Democrats, it's going to have to be a bipartisan bill, which is what a lot of conservative Republicans are saying they don't want. They should be able to do it on their own votes.

SIMON: And why can't they do it? This is basic arithmetic at this point.

DAVIS: You would think, yes. The reason why - the whole reason why they're doing this process the way they laid it out is it's under a special budget. It's a protected budget process where they only need 51 votes. In other words, it can't be filibustered. Democrats don't have a voice in this process. If they use that special protection to just repeal the law, when they try to do a replacement bill, that means it comes under the usual rules where the Democrats can filibuster it.

And they would need 60 votes to do that bill, which means they would need at least eight Democrats and probably more to come on board to essentially re-pass some form of health care legislation to offer insurance to people on the individual market. I think realistic people in this debate on both sides of the equation say that is the most unrealistic option at this stage.

SIMON: Do you hear any concern from Republican leaders or individual Republican legislators about the public opinion polls that suggest that the Republican health care proposals are extravagantly unpopular, less than 20 percent?

DAVIS: They are fully aware of how unpopular this legislation is. But I will tell you, Scott, every single conversation I have had with a Republican lawmaker on Capitol Hill is they say not doing anything on health care - letting this bill fail - is the worst possible political outcome because it is the singular thing that they have all campaigned on. It is the reason why they believe they have congressional majorities in the White House. And to fail on that would completely deflate the Republican base and structurally weaken the party going into the midterm elections.

SIMON: But Mitch McConnell at the same time can't pull some Democrats over with a plan.

DAVIS: No, certainly not at this stage. And from the beginning, they have used this process so they didn't have to deal with Democrats. Remember, they were using this process because it was supposed to be easy. Turns out health care is complicated.

SIMON: NPR's Susan Davis. Thanks so much for being with us.

DAVIS: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.

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