Health, Debt Delays Senate Recess

July 12, 2017

On July 11, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced that he will keep the Senate in session the first two weeks of August—as the upper chamber faces a daunting to-do list that includes: repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), raising the debt limit, considering the annual defense authorization measure and addressing the backlog of nominations.

Agitation from the Republican rank and file to cancel at least part of the annual August recess has been building for weeks, with a small group of junior Republican senators pressuring leadership to stay in Washington to tackle not just health care but tax reform and other items on the party’s agenda.

Majority Leader McConnell added that the Senate Republicans are planning a procedural vote next week aimed at clearing the way for floor consideration of their health care bill. The decision comes despite few assurances that the Republicans can garner the 50 votes needed pass their ACA repeal plan. McConnell did not say when Republicans plan to hold a final vote on their repeal bill after taking that procedural “motion to proceed” vote. However, he suggested he wants to finish work on the bill quickly.

McConnell confirmed that updated bill text will be released on July 13, with a new score from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) coming on Monday, July 17. However, a couple of the revisions to the ACA repeal bill have been unveiled. While the Medicaid sections of the bill will remain largely unchanged, two ACA taxes on the wealthy will not be repealed, providing additional revenue for the bill. Those taxes are a 3.8 percent tax on investment income and a 0.9 percent payroll tax.

Senate Republicans have spent the last two months trying to craft a repeal bill that can win a razor-thin majority, with Vice President Mike Pence serving as a possible tiebreaker. But that effort has sputtered as Republican leaders try to juggle objections from both moderate and conservative members.