Take 3? Toomey announces new Senate health-care bill coming

Third time’s the charm? Over the July 4th recess, it’s become clear that the Senate’s ObamaCare repeal, the Better Care Reform Act (BCRA), has become a dead letter in its present form. The number of Republicans who announced opposition to the plan — which was a revamp of the House-passed AHCA — now goes into double digits when Mitch McConnell can only afford to lose two.

So what’s next? A third version of ObamaCare repeal and replace will get unveiled tonight, according to Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), and he tells CNBC’s Squawk Box that he thinks this will get to 50:

Sen. Pat Toomey says a new version of the Republican health-care bill is expected on Monday, and he hopes it can appeal to both sides of his party’s divide.

“We’ve got a new version that comes out today. We’ll get new scores from CBO. And there’s still a shot of getting to 50 [votes]. Mike Pence breaks the tie,” said Toomey, one of 13 senators who worked with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to craft the GOP’s Obamacare replacement.

There’s a shot at getting to 50, but then again, the BCRA had a shot at it, too. Despite having their credibility on the line after seven years of promises to repeal ObamaCare and at least a year’s worth of promises to replace it with something better, Senate Republicans couldn’t work together well enough on the first BCRA to get it done. What makes Toomey think that will change with another version using the same components? He says the alternative is too “grim” to allow to materialize:

Working with Democrats would be a “grim” alternative, Toomey told CNBC. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., “has told us what his criteria is. He’s happy to work with us as long as nothing gets repealed, the mandates don’t go away, taxes remain in place and Medicaid stays on a completely unsustainable fiscal train wreck,” Toomey said.

That’s been the “grim” alternative all along, though, and it hasn’t yet incentivized cooperation and compromise within the Senate Republican caucus. Standing pat and allowing the markets to collapse shouldn’t be an option, but it certainly looks as though some believe it to be.

Toomey’s announcement seems to contradict earlier statements from his colleagues who thought the health-care reform process was dead. The alternative didn’t look all that grim from John McCain’s perspective:

The initial GOP bill to repeal and replace the nation’s health law is probably “dead” and President Donald Trump’s proposal to just repeal it appears to be a “non-starter,” two moderate Republican senators indicated Sunday as their party scrambled to salvage faltering legislation.

“We don’t know what the plan is,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La. “Clearly, the draft plan is dead. Is the serious rewrite plan dead? I don’t know.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said it may now be time for Republicans to come up with a new proposal with support from Democrats.

“I think my view is it’s probably going to be dead,” McCain said of the GOP bill. If Democrats are included, he said, it doesn’t mean “they control it. It means they can have amendments considered. And even when they lose, then they’re part of the process. That’s what democracy is supposed to be all about.”

Ahem. The problem with this scenario is that it either assumes Democrats will cooperate in reconciliation, which is laughable, or will allow for a cloture vote under regular order on repealing ObamaCare, which is sheer nonsense. They want Republicans on the hook for sustaining ObamaCare, and will refuse to engage in any effort to repeal it. If Republicans get any cooperation from Chuck Schumer, it will only be on Democratic terms. Don’t they know that by now?

If Republicans want to repeal and replace ObamaCare, they’re on their own. The sooner they realize that, the better prepared they will be to work with each other on the reconciliation bill, whatever they end up calling it.