Republicans are facing stumbling block with Obamacare in their desire to “repeal and replace” Obama’s signature health care law, but they are already flirting with not having the 50 votes needed to pass the bill in the Senate.
Republicans have 52 seats in the Senate, meaning they can only afford to lose three members of their caucus before they cannot pass legislation without Democratic votes. (In the case of a 50-50 tie, the vice president casts the tie breaker, presumably in favor of the GOP side.)
While only one Republican, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, has thus far signaled he might vote no on the Obamacare repeal mechanism currently moving through the Senate, potential flashpoints have already emerged that could jeopardize further votes.
House Speaker Paul Ryan’s support of using the Obamacare repeal measure to strip federal funding for Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides abortions as part of its broader reproductive health care services to men and women, could cost the GOP two key votes.
That measure would likely pass in the House, but two pro-abortion rights GOP senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, won’t commit to approving the bill with the Planned Parenthood provision in it.
“I’m going to wait and see what happens,” Collins told reporters on Thursday, indicating she thinks it’s too early to decide how she will vote on the bill. “Obviously, I’m not happy to hear the speaker wants to include defunding of Planned Parenthood, an extremely controversial issue in the package.”
Murkowski has said this week she won’t “speculate” about how she may vote on a hypothetical repeal package. When asked her position Thursday, Murkowski’s spokeswoman Karina Petersen said the senator “is concerned about defunding Planned Parenthood as she is a longtime support of Planned Parenthood and has opposed broadly defunding the organization.”
Paul has already voted against moving forward on the measure, which repeals Obamacare through a procedure called budget reconciliation. By voting on Obamacare through the budget process, the Senate can clear the measure with a simply majority, meaning they theoretically need no Democratic votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act.