Mitch McConnell

Mitch McConnell can’t afford to lose any more votes. | Getty


By Seung Min Kim
10/25/15 – 05:29 PM EDT

  • McConnell is having a hard time getting a simple-majority bill through the Senate.

Senate Republicans’ carefully-laid plans to use a powerful fast-track tool to send an Obamacare repeal to President Barack Obama is running into fresh resistance, with new opposition from high-profile conservatives and bubbling concerns from moderates.

For months, the GOP-led Congress has planned to use the procedural maneuver known as “reconciliation” to finally shepherd a major Obamacare repeal bill to the president’s desk. The fast-track process ensures Democrats in the Senate can’t filibuster the legislation and foil yet another attempt to gut the law.

But three conservative members of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s conference — Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah — have already vowed to vote against the current reconciliation package that repeals major parts of Obamacare, arguing it doesn’t go far enough. If those votes don’t budge, McConnell can’t afford to lose any more votes from his 54-member ranks.

Meanwhile, a provision in the reconciliation bill that defunds Planned Parenthood for one year could cause some heartburn for moderates who don’t support stripping money from the women’s health group. The group has come under significant Capitol Hill scrutiny, particularly from Republicans, over whether the organization profited from sales of fetal tissue.

“It is a mistake to do anything less than a full Obamacare repeal on reconciliation,” Cruz, who is vying for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, told Politico in a brief interview. “That’s what Republicans promised the voters we would do, and that’s exactly what we should do.”

From the other ideological end of the GOP spectrum, Maine Sen. Susan Collins said she was concerned that the reconciliation bill defunded Planned Parenthood. Still, she said: “I would look at the whole bill.”

Another moderate Republican, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, has voted against measures to defund the women’s health group, and would likely come under criticism in his uphill reelection bid in the blue state if he switched course on Planned Parenthood on reconciliation. He referred a reporter to a spokeswoman, who declined to comment.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is a third Senate Republican who has voiced objections in the past to broadly defunding Planned Parenthood. A Murkowski spokeswoman said it was premature to comment on the reconciliation package.

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