Less than a day after the American Health Care Act passed the House of Representatives by a razor-thin margin of 217-213 (with zero support for Democrats and 20 Republican defections), at least one Senate Democrat is signalling he’s open to working with his colleagues to improve the Affordable Care Act or repeal and replace it with “something better.”
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) made that declaration on Fox News in the initial aftermath of AHCA’s passage in the House but also said that he doesn’t support the bill passed on Thursday by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Democrats. “There were plenty of mistakes made with the [Affordable Care Act], there’s no doubt about that,” Tester said. “Quite frankly, we didn’t make the modifications over the last six, seven years, for obvious reasons, to make that bill better.”
In many ways, Tester’s comments are of a piece with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) who told Senate Republicans that they should refuse to follow their House colleagues “over a cliff” and work with Democrats to “to improve our healthcare system in a bipartisan way.”
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) likely has a 52-48 margin to start with in the Senate and Senate Republicans such as Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) have already made it know they’re not supporting the bill in its present state. So Sen. McConnell may well have to wheel and deal with members in his own party as well as those across the aisle. If he does manage to pass the bill, but with significant differences from the House bill, a whole new round of bargaining will begin again in conference committee.