Senate Republicans vote to open health care bill for debate

In the midst of an unexpected appearance from Senator John McCain (who returned following brain surgery) and a delay of initial proceedings by protesters, it was hard to imagine that the evening could be topped in a manner congruous with the events which preceded it—at least until Senate Republicans voted to advance their health bill to the floor for debate, this is.

The vote was uncertain until the last, especially after Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski voted against the bill. At this point, however, many of the former holdouts announced their tentative support, bringing the Republican tally up to forty-eight and short. John McCain showed up to thunderous applause by both parties—he voted in support of the motion—and then there was one.

Mitch McConnell would not let the one get away.

McConnell and Senator Ron Johnson reportedly argued for minutes before the congressman’s vote was won over. He made the fiftieth vote. Vice President Mike Pence broke the tie, and thus, the health bill was opened for debate.

The next couple of days will consist of proposing amendments and voting on said amendments, ultimately in the hopes that a comprehensive, passable bill will be found at the end of the process. McConnell intends for the legislation to be completed at the end of the week, but could offer no comment on whether he thinks it will pass or fail. The road to getting it passed will certainly be a difficult one, though.

Of the holdouts who voted to proceed the bill to debate, many have gone on the record saying that they’re willing to extend their provisional support as long as the final version of the bill suits them. Amongst the holdouts, there is a large degree of differences in opinion. Rand Paul will vote to pass the bill as long as it includes a full repeal of Obamacare. Dean Heller will withdraw his support if the bill is too harsh on Medicaid. For certain, it will be a balancing act that senators will have to get just right in the span of a couple of days.

Even so, this was a momentous event in the ensuing issue of health care, a notion expressed by none other than the President himself: “I’m very happy to announce that with zero of the Democrats’ votes, the motion to proceed on health care has moved past and now we move forward truly great health care for the American people. We look forward to that. This was a big step.”

It was a big step indeed. What remains to be determined, though, is whether it was a step in the right direction.