The closely guarded health care bill written entirely behind closed doors will finally become public on Thursday in a do-or-die moment for the Republican Party’s winding efforts to repeal Obamacare.
The unveiling of the legislation will mark the first time that the majority of the Senate GOP conference gets a comprehensive look at the health care proposal. With Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pressing ahead for a vote next week, senators are likely to have only a handful of days to decide whether to support or vote against the bill.
McConnell’s decision to keep the details tightly under wraps was intentional and aimed at winning over his colleagues out of the public spotlight, but the secretive process has infuriated Democrats — and aggravated plenty of Republicans, too.
“I need the information to justify a ‘yes’ vote. I have a hard time believing that we would have that in such a short period of time,” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, told CNN on Wednesday.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham joked: “We’ll know if it’s a boy or girl tomorrow.”
McConnell has very little room for error — he can only lose two Republican votes and still pass the bill.
President Donald Trump said Wednesday night he hopes to “surprise” with a plan that has “heart.”
“I hope we are going to surprise with a really good plan,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “You know I’ve been talking about a plan with heart. I said add some money to it. A plan with heart, but Obamacare is dead.”
Can McConnell get the votes?
Senior GOP senators were still putting final touches on the draft legislation on Wednesday, and it is still likely to change before any vote as members express their preferences.
Much like in the House, where moderate and conservative lawmakers were deeply divided on health care policy leading up to a vote in May, Senate Republicans also have clashing ideological views and priorities.
Some of the key issues that lawmakers are most concerned about include Medicaid reform, regulatory waivers, the state stability fund and tax credits. McConnell has a tough needle to thread: making significant concessions to conservatives risks losing moderate votes, and vice versa.
What will CBO say?
The legislation will also have to undergo parliamentary scrutiny to ensure that it meets the strict requirements on what can or can’t be included in a bill under the budget reconciliation process.
One report that will inform Senate Republicans as they decide whether to support the bill will be a score from the Congressional Budget Office, expected to come out in the coming days.
The CBO analysis will shed light on how much money the bill would cost and how many people would be covered. Senate Republicans hope to see better headlines from this CBO report than the one that the House GOP legislation received. CBO said the House bill would result in 23 million fewer people insured in 2026 than under Obamacare.