WASHINGTON — House Republicans defied the odds and narrowly passed a controversial bill to repeal and replace Obamacare on Thursday afternoon, with House Speaker Paul Ryan urging his members to seize the moment and deliver on their long-held campaign promise even before members received an estimate of the bill’s effects from the Congressional Budget Office.
It took many late night meetings, last-minute amendments and old fashioned arm-twisting to push the bill through the House, but the American Health Care Act likely faces an even steeper and more treacherous climb in the staid and slow Senate.
Factions of both moderate and conservative GOP senators are deeply skeptical of the bill for entirely different reasons, making a path forward they can all agree upon difficult to imagine. The Republicans’ bare majority — just 52 votes — means they can only lose two senators and still push a repeal through. The chamber’s Democratic senators remain firmly unified against any repeal of Obamacare.
Even if Republican senators do find that path, they are unlikely to accede to House conservatives’ demands that they return the precariously negotiated legislation back to them virtually untouched. Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., a member of the Freedom Caucus, said Tuesday the Senate better not change the AHCA “one iota,” or risk losing support. But several Republican senators said Thursday they expected to write their own, improved bill after reviewing the House version.
“When the House passes a bill, I’ll review it and then we’ll go to work on the Senate bill,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.
“The Senate will have its own bill, I don’t think this is the final product,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said.
Several GOP senators also expressed concerns with the rushed process in the House, which voted on the revised bill less than…