Republicans had faced a September 30 deadline of their own to pass a health-care bill through the Senate using the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process. At the time of the fiscal deal, this wasn’t much of a factor, because the party had seemingly given up on Obamacare repeal after the Senate failed to pass a bill in July. McConnell had moved on, as had many Republican senators; one committee even launched bipartisan hearings and negotiations with the goal of fixing the law rather than repealing it.

All the while, however, GOP Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana had been working quietly on a repeal proposal. For weeks its prospects appeared dim, in part because the Senate simply had too much else on its plate. The fiscal deal removed one major hurdle, and on Wednesday, a spokesman for McConnell said it is the majority leader’s “intention to consider Graham-Cassidy on the floor next week.”