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Pence Breaks Tie as Senate Votes to Begin Debating 'Obamacare' Repeal 

click to enlarge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) walks with members of his staff on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 20, 2017. After seven months of deliberation, Republicans have reached the moment when they have to vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act, but they have yet to be told precisely what they will be voting on. - TOM BRENNER/THE NEW YORK TIMES
  • Tom Brenner/The New York Times
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) walks with members of his staff on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 20, 2017. After seven months of deliberation, Republicans have reached the moment when they have to vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act, but they have yet to be told precisely what they will be voting on.

By ROBERT PEAR and THOMAS KAPLAN
© 2017 New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON — The Senate narrowly voted Tuesday to begin debate on a bill to repeal major provisions of the health care law, taking a pivotal step forward after the dramatic return of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who cast a crucial vote despite his diagnosis of brain cancer

Vice President Mike Pence cast the tiebreaking vote.

The 51-50 vote came only a week after the Republican effort to dismantle a pillar of former President Barack Obama’s legacy appeared all but doomed. It marked an initial win for President Donald Trump, who pushed, cajoled and threatened senators over the last days to at least begin debating the repeal of the health care law.

But even with that successful step, it is unclear whether Republicans will have the votes they need to uproot the law that has provided health insurance to millions of Americans. The Senate will now begin debating, amending and ultimately voting in the coming days on legislation that would have a profound impact on the U.S. health care system.

By a single vote, the Senate cleared the way for an epic battle over the future of the health law. Only two Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, voted against the motion. The debate has broad implications for health care and households in every state.

Trump kept up the pressure on Tuesday by posting on Twitter. “After 7 years of talking,” he said, “we will soon see whether or not Republicans are willing to step up to the plate!”

The successful procedural vote on Tuesday is an important step forward for the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who only a week ago appeared to have failed in his effort to put together a health bill that could squeak through the narrowly divided Senate.

For weeks, McConnell has been promoting and revising a comprehensive bill that would repeal the health law while also replacing it, but he has struggled to nail down the necessary support to pass that measure.

An alternative would be to pass a narrower bill that would repeal the health law without putting in place a replacement, but that approach has been greeted with objections from some Republicans as well.


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