At least five GOP senators say they'll vote to block health-care bill from advancing

Emphasis on “at least.” A few of the iffiest Republicans, like Lisa Murkowkski, Bill Cassidy, Shelley Moore Capito, and Rob Portman, haven’t shown their cards yet.

If they want a vote on the final bill by Thursday, they need a vote on the motion to proceed today. Is that happening?

Technically there are also five declared Republican “no” votes on the bill itself — but not the same five as above. Ted Cruz has said he can’t vote for the bill in its current form but hasn’t weighed in yet on the motion to proceed. Presumably he’ll also vote no on the MTP since he and Lee tend to vote together on these things. Likewise, if Collins is a no on the MTP, presumably she’s also a no on the bill in its current form. That means McConnell has already lost six Republicans when he can only afford to lose two.

Can he claw back four and keep Murkowski et al. happy? Maybe. He’s got money to play with.

Right, but how do you throw another $100-200 billion at the bill without alienating fiscal conservatives like Paul, Lee, and Cruz? The first two would almost certainly vote no if entitlements under the bill start to re-inflate; Cruz is trickier because he’s up for reelection and might find it hard to explain to Texans that he was the deciding vote against a bill that would have finally repealed ObamaCare. A Twitter pal, remembering Cruz’s slipperiness on the Gang of Eight bill four years ago, probably has it right: “Calling it now: Cruz will vote yes, then in 2020 will create an elaborate story about poison pills to justify his vote.” Heh.

Speaking of poison pills, one way out of this mess for McConnell is to promise to hold an open amendment process on the floor if the motion to proceed passes and let Republican skeptics offer their own proposals on ways to improve the bill. But that’s risky since something might pass that ends up making 50 votes on the final bill impossible. E.g., Collins could propose to cut the Medicaid rollback in half; all Senate Democrats would vote for that plus multiple Republicans. But on the final vote for the bill, Democrats will vote no en masse along with many Republicans who can’t support a bill that now includes Collins’s amendment. Result: The bill fails dismally. That’s why McConnell has been holding off on opening up the amendment process. But now he may not have a choice.

The entire GOP caucus is meeting for lunch today. If it looks like they don’t have the numbers for a motion to proceed, McConnell will likely postpone consideration of the bill until after the July 4th recess. That’ll give him more time to work on improvement — but it’ll also give Democrats time to organize pressure tactics on wary Republicans over the recess. If you’re in the camp that believes McConnell is an insuperable strategic genius who will somehow find a way, note that according to CNN’s sources the GOP leadership was caught off-guard by last night’s dam-break on the motion to proceed. “We’re hanging by a thread right now,” said one aide. Stay tuned.