As the Senate debated the resolution that provides a blueprint to repeal the Affordable Care Act, both Republicans and Democrats had the opportunity to offer a flurry of rapid-fire amendments in a process known as “vote-a-rama.” While these votes are non-binding, the exercise provides an opportunity for senators to show where their colleagues stand on a number of key issues. And the results are not pretty.
Senate Republicans took several votes on symbolic amendments offered by Democrats that showed they are not on your side.
Last night, Republicans voted against amendments that would:
1. Protect people with pre-existing conditions
Republicans blocked an amendment that would have made it harder to take away coverage from Americans with preexisting medical conditions. 52 million people — about 1 in 4 non-elderly Americans — have preexisting conditions. These Americans are more likely to face significant health costs, and before the Affordable Care Act, were often denied coverage entirely. The amendment also would have protected coverage for people disabilities or chronic health conditions, and prevent plans from discriminating based on health. Republicans currently have no alternative plan to insure people with preexisting conditions. Only two Republicans — Maine’s Susan Collins and Nevada’s Dean Heller — voted for the amendment.
2. Let young adults stay on their parents’ plan
Republicans blocked an amendment by Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin that would have made it easier for young people to stay on their parents’ health care plan until they are 26 — one of the most popular and effective provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Over 6 million young adults have gained health insurance since the law was implemented in 2010, and young Americans now report better physical and mental health. The provision is also overwhelmingly popular — 85 percent favor keeping young people on their parents’ insurance plans. Sens. Heller and Collins were the only two senators who bucked their party on this vote.
3. Maintain access to contraceptive coverage
Thanks to Obamacare, birth control is more affordable than ever. Spending on contraceptive health care has gone down by 20 percent since the Affordable Care Act took effect. An amendment by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand sought to continue this momentum. Unsurprisingly, Republicans blocked the provision 49–49. Sens. Collins and Heller both voted with Democrats.
4. Ensure Medicaid expansion stays in place
Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act benefited 11 million low-income Americans in 2015 alone and has created thousands of jobs for direct care workers. An amendment by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) would have sought to continue Medicaid expansion, but it was blocked by Republicans — 48–50.
5. Protect children on Medicaid or CHIP
Republicans blocked an amendment offered by Senator Brown (D-OH) that would ensure children could keep their health coverage on Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), both of which provide comprehensive health care services for children including key preventive and developmental care.
6. Protect veterans’ health care
Republicans blocked an amendment by Sen. Tester (D-MT) that would have made it harder to restrict veterans’ ability to access VA health care. While Democrats have sought to provide better funding and health care access at the VA, Donald Trump has proposed eliminating the agency altogether through privatization. A poll in 2015 found that almost two-thirds of survey respondents oppose plans to replace VA health care with a voucher system, an idea backed by many Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates.
Republicans say they want to replace Obamacare with something better. But in just one night’s votes, they indicated that they are not willing to take a stand to ensure that people with pre-existing conditions, women, children, veterans, young adults, people with disabilities, and struggling families can continue to access the affordable coverage they need going forward.
Melissa Boteach is the Vice President of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF), and Jeremy Slevin is the Associate Director of Advocacy for the same program. ThinkProgress is an editorially independent site housed at CAPAF.
The introduction of this piece has been slightly updated to clarify how these votes were related to the effort to advance the budget resolution.
Author: Melissa Boteach and Jeremy Slevin