Watch live: Senate Republicans debate healthcare in vote-a-rama

By Andrew V. Pestano

July 27 (UPI) -- The Senate on Thursday is holding another marathon healthcare session grappling with how to proceed with Republican efforts to scrap the Affordable Care Act.

Debate in the chamber began at 10 a.m. and is expected to carry on all day and possibly into the night. The Senate will debate and amend the House-passed American Health Care Act in what's known as a vote-a-rama -- a process in which senators can introduce an unlimited number of amendments.


At the end of the process, Senate Republicans are expected to push a "skinny repeal" of the ACA -- essentially a slimmed-down version of a full repeal. The Congressional Budget Office on Wednesday said the leaner repeal would leave 16 million people uninsured over the next 10 years.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs to persuade at least 50 of his Republican colleagues to vote "yes" on a final bill, at which point Vice President Mike Pence would break a tie in favor of the bill.

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"Senators will have the opportunity to consider many, many more amendments tonight. I know that colleagues in both parties are eager to do so. I encourage senators with healthcare ideas -- whether Republicans, Democrats, or Independents -- to bring their amendments to the floor," McConnell said on the floor. "I urge everyone to keep working hard so we can get this over the finish line -- it's what our constituents, and our country, deserve."


The "skinny repeal" is a downsized version of previous legislation that would stop the ACA's individual mandate, which financially penalizes people who don't purchase health insurance. Other considerations include an end to requiring employers of a certain size to provide health insurance to employees, eliminating the medical device tax, de-funding Planned Parenthood and ending the Prevention and Public Health Fund.

Demonstrators cheer at a rally held by Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo by Erin Schaff/UPI

The Senate scheduled a 2:15 p.m. EDT vote on whether senators support a single-payer healthcare system.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted against a fuller repeal of the ACA, with seven Republican senators siding with Democrats.

Senators voted 55-45 against repealing the healthcare law without a replacement ready to go. The legislation resembled a bill the Senate passed in 2015, but one that former President Barack Obama vetoed.

RELATED GOP encounters new parliamentary hurdles on healthcare bill

President Donald Trump for weeks has lobbied for Senate Republicans to support efforts to junk the ACA, and has urged senators not to leave Washington, D.C., for the August recess before taking some kind of action.


"Come on Republican senators, you can do it on healthcare. After seven years, this is your chance to shine! Don't let the American people down!" Trump wrote Thursday on Twitter.

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