Republicans have been touting to "repeal and replace Obamacare" ever since Obamacare was first passed under the Obama administration. In 2017 the republicans put out their healthcare bill on the Senate floor which was rejected due to the votes of Arizona's John McCain, Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, and Maine's Susan Collins.

Now that Mr.McCain has passed away and has been replaced with Martha McSally to serve the remainder of his term and who would support such legislation, why don't Republicans just reintroduce their healthcare legislation?

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    You might be a bit confused, the issue that McCain voted against was referred to as "the skinny repeal" not a repeal and replace. What he voted on was a simple repeal bill, which he might a voted favorably on, but there was no Senate agreement on what was to be the replacement, so approval of the skinny repeal, would not have a replacement.
    – BobE
    Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 2:40
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    See also politics.stackexchange.com/questions/16606/… Commented Jul 18, 2020 at 10:35

7 Answers 7


To pass, a bill needs to pass in the House and Senate and be signed by the President. Since the last election, Democrats took control of the House, so while the Obamacare repeal bills that failed in the Senate in 2017 might pass the Senate today, there's no way they would make it through the Democrat controlled House.

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    That said, a lot of politics is about the optics. Bills are often introduced that have no chance of passing, just so that a vote can be recorded, or so that elected officials can go back to their constituents claiming to have fought for what they were elected for. Republicans can't do that because they're not presenting any bills for votes.
    – Yehuda
    Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 13:15
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    @Yehuda That's a great point! What's probably implied, then, by the Republicans not introducing a new Obamacare repeal bill at this point is that the don't think the optics of it will be an overall electoral winner for them at this time and so close to the election. That's all speculation on my part, though, so take it with a grain of salt.
    – divibisan
    Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 15:03
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    @divibisan, As I recall, Republicans had both chambers when Trump was elected so your answer of needing approval from both is mute. There simply was no plan and when they started the repeal process of Obama Care, the backlash was pretty big from their constituents.
    – Noah
    Commented Jul 19, 2020 at 22:31
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    @Noah You're not wrong about the backlash, but they barely had a majority in the Senate at the time which meant that 1) they had no chance of overruling a filibuster, so any repeal plan had to be very limited to pass under reconciliation rules (hence why the final vote was on the "skinny repeal" rather than a more politically palatable plan, whatever that might have been), and 2) since their majority was so close, they could only lose the votes of 2 "moderates" to lose the vote: in the end they lost 3.
    – divibisan
    Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 14:23
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    Now, their majority is larger and McCain has been replaced with a more partisan Senator, so if McConnell still wanted to, he could almost certainly force through the "skinny repeal". It would fail in the house, though, and so have no effect, and as the other answers argue, would likely have significant political costs
    – divibisan
    Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 14:27

With Democrat control of the House such a bill would have no chance of becoming law. Yehuda points out that bills are sometimes introduced for show, even if they have no chance of becoming law, to demonstrate a party's commitment to making something happen, or so that opponents are forced to vote for or against something that can be used against them later. Why are they not doing this?

The main reason is that the promise to the electorate made by President Trump was to "repeal Obamacare and replace it with something better". The bill that failed in the Senate did repeal Obamacare, but did not replace it with anything (better or not). That was one main reason it failed. There was no replacement because Republicans could not agree on what a 'better" replacement would look like. Many thought that there should be no replacement, but this would deprive many potential Republican voters of affordable healthcare, and remove popular reforms such as being able to get insurance for pre-existing conditions. Democrats are widely associated with the ACA, and so are unlikely to suffer by being forced to vote to keep it.

The likely effect of such a vote (even if not passed) would be to expose divisions in the Republican party over what healthcare should look like, to give opponents ammunition as Republicans voted to remove popular policies, and to draw attention to the fact that Republicans, while promising to "replace Obamacare with something better" are actually voting to simply remove it.

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    It should be noted that Republicans voted to repeal Obamacare at least 63 times while Obama was in power (and thus no chance of any of those repeals succeeding). en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – ceejayoz
    Commented Jul 18, 2020 at 21:37

There are aspects of this bill that modify and restrict tax credits. If I'm not mistaken, this would make it subject to the Origination Clause of the Constitution (Article I, Section 7(1)):

All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

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    Since the individual mandate has been removed, ACA is no longer related to taxes.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 15:53
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    @J.M.Haynes Oh, they worked around this for the original bill. You know how they did that? The Senate took a bill that had been passed by the House, which provided a tax credit to military service members. They then 'amended' that bill to completely remove its entire contents, rename it, and replace it with the Senate version of PPACA. And, no, I'm not kidding. That's actually what they did.
    – reirab
    Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 16:06
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    @Barmar It wasn't actually removed. The penalty for violating the mandate was changed to $0. Because removing it wouldn't have been possible under reconciliation, but changing the penalty to $0 was. Which is why we still get tax forms every year telling us what months we had eligible coverage for purposes of the mandate, even though the question about whether we had eligible coverage for the whole year has been removed from the tax forms.
    – reirab
    Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 16:15
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    @HarryJohnston I mean, it really isn't (it's an obvious violation of the intent of the Origination Clause,) but challenging it in court is easier said than done, as whoever brings the suit would need standing. Perhaps the House would have standing, but they're sure not going to bring such a suit right now.
    – reirab
    Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 21:22
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    @HarryJohnston Prior to the 2010 elections, moderate (Blue Dog) Democrats from moderate and even conservative districts/states still existed and there were many in both the House and the Senate that were on the edge about PPACA. However, after many of them caved and voted for it, they were almost all replaced with Republicans in the 2010 mid-term elections. As a result, since that time, there have been few Democrats in Congress that are moderate enough to break ranks with party leadership. From the 90s through 2010, though, Blue Dog Democrats were actually a substantial force in Congress.
    – reirab
    Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 22:25

A less informed, and more cynical answer than the previous posts: The republicans have no real plan, they are just against anything a democrat is for, and at this point have painted themselves into a corner by promising a narrow set of their base that they will repeal and replace a popular program. They also know that actively appearing to work against healthcare during a healthcare crisis would make them look even worse to most people.


As other answers have noted, any repeal of the ACA is strongly opposed by the Democrats, who control the House, so such a bill has no chance of passing.

Of course, that has not stopped the Republicans from introducing and passing bills through the Senate that they know will be DOA in the House before now, in order to make a statement.

But right now, the world and especially the USA is in the grip of a pandemic. Introducing a bill that strips people of healthcare in the middle of such a pandemic would be incredibly tone-deaf and psychopathic, even for Republicans. Hence they won't do such a thing.


Loss of Political Will

As many other answers have noted the loss of the House in 2018 made passing the legislation to repeal or even repeal/replace Obamacare in part or whole nearly an impossibility. Any effort to do so would be DOA in the House. That said there is perhaps another reason it has taken a backseat. As described in this NBC News article just prior to the 2018 election many voters were concerned with Healthcare, citing it as their highest priority issue. At the time many Republican representatives in tough races began to move away from hard-line repeal, even if they had previously run on the issue. This is because the electorate soured on that as a solution, particularly when it came to the removal of Preexisting Condition clauses. This article notes that the initial polling on the issue held true though the exit polls and this article further expands on that.

Given that Republicans will be looking to beat back a push to regain the Senate, Mitch McConnell seemingly has learned the lesson described in this article from fivethirtyeight where he will not push legislation in which he has little to gain and much to lose. They have instead focused on judicial appointments, also a keystone of the Republican strategy and one that they have full control over.


While previous answers have correctly pointed out that such a bill would never pass the House, it worth noting that a better line of attack on the ACA by the GOP would be for the law to be ruled unconstitutional. This would require anyone trying to reintroduce a healthcare bill to restart most of the work from scratch.

The ACA bill has already been stripped from the penalty of the individual mandate. This may render all of the ACA unconstitutional.

In fact, as of late June 2020, that is the official line of the DOJ. The case is scheduled to be heard in March 2021 by the Supreme Court of the United States.

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    So you’re saying that they’re hoping for a broad Supreme Court ruling against the ACA, and know that if they repeal it then the court is unlikely to make a ruling as the issue is moot?
    – divibisan
    Commented Jul 19, 2020 at 15:33

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