Senate GOP opens health care debate. Now what?

Senate GOP opens health care debate. Now what?

On July 25, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell narrowly managed to keep a Republican effort to reform health care alive. We asked our experts to consider the importance of this procedural vote and what happens next.

Which bill will it be?

Senate Republicans have voted to start debate on a health care bill. The “motion to proceed” – which marks the start of debate on bills in the Senate – reached a majority on the strength of “yes” votes from senators who previously voted “no,” including Rand Paul, Dean Heller and Shelley Moore Capito; John McCain’s quick return to Washington after a brain cancer diagnosis; and a rare tie-breaking vote from Vice President Pence.

While this is a major step in the legislative process in the Senate, it’s important to remember that today’s vote is procedural, not substantive. No bill has passed. All that has happened is that the Senate will begin formal debate.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell depended on a couple of factors to help get the motion passed. First, members are more likely to support their parties on procedural votes than votes directly attached to whether a bill should pass. Second, this particular procedural vote has almost no substance; nobody knows what the Senate bill will look like, so it’s unclear what exactly the Senate just agreed to debate. Since the health care bill is massively unpopular, this lack of substance probably helped get marginal senators on board.

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