Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was planning a procedural vote on a Republican bill – written by vulnerable North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis – to maintain protection for pre-existing conditions if the Supreme Court ousted the ACA. That would give GOP senators something to point out as evidence they want to continue that protection, and also allow them to vote against and defeat Thursday̵
The Tillis measure came to a standstill on Wednesday evening with a strict party line of 47:47, with Democrats voting against and Republicans voting in favor. While Democrats couldn’t get the 51 votes it takes to kill the bill, it ends up going nowhere. It would take 60 votes to pass, which it couldn’t get in the tightly divided chamber where the GOP has a 53-47 edge.
Democrats call McConnell’s move a “show vote,” arguing that the bills put in place by Republicans to show their support for maintaining protection for pre-existing conditions do not deliver on that promise.
“The Senate Republicans are buying another bill to trick Americans into believing that their loved ones will be protected under pre-existing conditions. The only people covered by this bill are the Senate Republicans,” said Democratic Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia.
The back and forth comes after Schumer took a seldom applied move – essentially taking control of the word from McConnell, who normally controls the Senate’s schedule – and forcing Thursday’s procedural vote on Democratic law. Seeking to shine the spotlight on the White House’s attempts to kill the health bill, the Democrats are looking for ways to roll back Supreme Court candidate Amy Coney Barrett’s swift pre-election confirmation that the Supreme Court did so will listen to the Trump administration’s ACA appeal in November.
Democrats have enforced small Senate procedural delays since Barrett’s appointment in protest of her nomination, which they do not have the votes to quit. The Democrats are expected to continue to force procedural votes that could force the Senate to return to session next week if the Senators were scheduled on their pre-election break.
McConnell and his leadership team tell their members that the chamber may meet next week if the Democrats don’t work together. According to one participant, the issue was raised at the Senate GOP lunch on Wednesday.
When asked if the Senate would be on recess next week as planned, John Thune, the Senate majority whip, said, “That is entirely up to the Democrats.”
There must be unanimous approval for the establishment of pro forma meetings – in which no business is conducted – during a break from the Senate. When the Senate meets, it is unclear whether there would be votes. If there are no votes, senators standing for re-election could still return home next week.
This story has been updated with additional developments.