WASHINGTON - President Trump is praising Republicans in the Senate after they narrowly voted to begin debating legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare, but with no clear plan forward, a final vote still has a long way to go.
It took a tie-breaking vote from the Vice President and a cross country flight from Republican Senator John McCain to put the debate into motion.
"Many of us on this side of aisle waited years for the opportunity and thought it'd never come,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
But what comes next?
"The big question is will they be able to pass anything?" said Larry Jacobs, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
Jacobs says it's still unlikely Senate Republicans can find the votes needed to completely repeal Obamacare or come up with a comprehensive replacement. He says there are slim hopes now pinned on a third option.
"This third door is being known as the skinny bill because it's not repealing, but it's thinning down Obamacare,” Jacobs said, referring to a plan that would preserve the Medicaid expansion but eliminate other provisions like the employer and individual mandates. “The question is, would the conservatives find that to be enough to go along?”
Senator John McCain, who made the trip to DC for the first time since his brain cancer diagnosis, may have voted to start the debate but he advocated for another way forward: a compromise with Democrats.
"What have we to lose by trying to work together to find those solutions?” McCain said. “We're not getting done much apart. I don't think any of us feels very proud of our incapacity."
Jacobs doubts that would work.
"Is that possible in this day and age? Probably not, which is a sad statement about where we are,” he said.
Senate Democrats appear to agree, telling protestors outside the Capitol that they don't believe Republicans will compromise.
"We will not stand for the ruse that they went through today to try and move the bill along,” said Senator Chuck Schumer. “And we are going to fight and fight and fight and fight until this bill is dead.”
Jacobs says there will be many votes and several days before it’s even known whether the Senate will attempt to pass any bill. In the meantime, Capitol police will likely be very busy with protests. They arrested nearly 100 people on Tuesday alone.
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