Senators and their staffers will present potential health care solutions to the Republican conference at a closed-door meeting on Tuesday. In the event of a 50-50 vote, Vice President Mike Pence would cast the tiebreaker. "There's no doubt that keeping members focused on investigations detracts from our legislative agenda", said Short, the White House legislative director.
The bottom line is that whatever tactics Republicans use, if they can get something passed in the Senate, and get Senate and House Republicans into some form of negotiations created to reconcile the two versions, the prospects of final success go up substantially.
That echoed similarly pessimistic comments in recent days from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican Sens.
"'Cause this is not like fine wine, it doesn't get better with age", he added with a laugh.
"We've been talking about this for seven years, so now is the time to start coming up with some tangible alternatives and building consensus", GOP Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who expects Republicans will need to provide a stopgap measure to stabilize insurance markets while they continue working on a broader overhaul. But lawmakers emerging from the room were tight-lipped about what exactly is on the table.
The House GOP proposal, given to Senate leaders Tuesday night, also would eliminate a Senate-proposed pay raise for 38,000 state workers and money the Senate wants to open a new youth prison that the state has built but has been unable to use for lack of funding.
Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, defended the process, saying it fostered comity among Republicans. The small print taketh away.
"I think it's more likely to fail than not", Sen.
"I'm not going to go into details". There will be drama in the push and pull between more-moderate and more-conservative members in shaping the bill.
Although encouraged by the meeting, many GOP senators did not appear ready to embrace the budding plan. The proposal has been short on details, including how much the tax cuts would cost and what loopholes would be closed.Others are eager to move past healthcare as well."We need to bring this to an end and move to taxes", said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.
Lawmakers remain split over what to do about Medicaid. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., in a bit of very smooth rhetoric that glides over the likelihood that the Senate version will still cut Medicaid for untold numbers of poor people. "Now the Senate, I'm sure, will follow suit and get a bill across the finish line this summer that will be great health care for Americans".
After all, McConnell knows that the longer health care is the top item on the agenda, the longer it will be until senators take up an infrastructure bill, immigration reform, or tax reform. Among them is raising the debt ceiling to avoid defaulting on the nation's bills, always a thorny political lift.
Cole argued that Republicans have not gotten the credit they deserve to date for what they have accomplished: voting to overturn a series of Obama regulations, as well as reaching compromise last month on spending legislation for the remainder of the 2017 budget year that included a big increase for defense.
Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 Republican, said that ideally the Senate would vote this month, but certainly before scattering for Congress' annual August recess.
"There should be", Republican Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) told reporters. "Alaska is an extreme outlier and part of it is just our geography, it's our low-density population so if there is not some kind of geographic cost adjustor it makes it tough for me".
"This is one more reason why the status quo on health care is unsustainable".
Behind the scenes, the idea of auto-enrollment has become a flash point for conservatives who say it's no different than a mandate.
Theworking group, along with several other interested senators, huddled first Tuesday to review the party's progress; then the entire conference gathers for lunch, where McConnell will take the GOP's temperature on the party's healthcare principles.