The Great Smoky Mountain Journal

Staff Reports

Posted: Monday, January 01, 2018 12:28 PM

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Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander Among Seven GOP Defectors Voting Against Full Repeal of ACA - Obama Care

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate voted down a GOP-backed plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act health law and leave replacement for later on Wednesday.

Senators planned to vote Wednesday on a Republican amendment to repeal much of President Barack Obama’s law and give Congress two years to come up with a replacement. That was rejected by a combination of solidly opposed Democrats and Republicans unwilling to tear down the law without a replacement in hand.

Seven Republicans joined all Democrats in rejecting an amendment by Rand Paul of Kentucky that would have repealed most of former President Obama’s health care law, with a two-year delay but no replacement. Congress passed nearly identical legislation in 2015 and sent it to Obama, who unsurprisingly vetoed it.

One of those Republicans who voted against the "repeal-only" plan was Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who the president later accused on Twitter of disappointing the country by opposing the effort.

“Now we have to keep working hard,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday. “We’re determined to do everything we can to succeed. We know our constituents are counting on us.”

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) was one of the seven Republican senators who voted against the repeal. He said after the vote, "I agree with President Trump that we should replace and repeal major parts of Obamacare at the same time. In 2015, we could have waited two years for relief, but we cannot now, when Tennessee insurance commissioner Julie McPeak says the state's individual insurance market is 'very near collapse.' We have 350,000 Tennesseans who buy insurance in the individual market—those are songwriters, small businessmen and women, farmers—who are worried today that they may have zero options for insurance in just six months.

"In addition, I don't think Tennesseans would be comfortable canceling insurance for 22 million Americans and trusting Congress to find a replacement in two years. Pilots like to know where they're going to land when they take off, and we should too.

"My main concern is doing all I can to help the 350,000 Tennesseans and 18 million Americans in the individual market who may literally have no options to purchase health insurance in 2018 and 2019. However the votes come out on the health care bill, the Senate health committee has a responsibility during the next few weeks to hold hearings to continue exploring how to stabilize the individual market. I will consult with Senate leadership and then I will set those hearings after the Senate votes on the health care bill."

One possibility taking shape in talks among senators was a “skinny repeal” that would abolish just a few of the key elements of Obama’s law including mandates that everyone purchase insurance and taxes that all GOP senators can agree to oppose.