While the House and Senate are not in legislative session in Washington, D.C. this week, the clock keeps ticking on GOP efforts to overhaul the Obama health law, as top Republicans are hoping the week away from the halls of the U.S. Capitol will allow them to thread the needle, and find a deal that can muster a bare majority of votes for approval of a health care bill.
Here is where we stand on Capitol Hill:
1. Congress is off this week, but the health care work continues on. Behind the scenes, key GOP lawmakers are still trying to figure out how they can cobble together 50 votes for a bill to overhaul the Obama health law. When Senators left town last Thursday, things weren't looking that good, and there hasn't been any news to indicate a sudden rash of deal-making among Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell compared the effort to reach an agreement to solving the Rubik's Cube. That leads me to again note that there is a solution to this riddle out there - just like a Rubik's Cube can be solved as well.
2. Repeal and hold off on replace. The latest idea from Republicans is an idea that went nowhere months ago, which is that the GOP would repeal the Obama health law, and then give the Congress a year to figure out how the U.S. health care system should be tweaked. Whether or not that's a legitimate type of plan to float, it doesn't work on one basic level - it would need 60 votes to get through the Senate. And there aren't 60 votes for that - in fact, I don't think it would even get a majority of Republicans, because it leaves the replacement part of the equation as To Be Determined.
3. What about a bipartisan health care deal? While Democratic leaders say they won't work with the GOP on any plan to upend the Obama health law, some Democrats say it is time for the President to open up negotiations, all to see if there is some common ground on health care. "I think it needs repair," Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said on Fox News about the Obama health law. "We need to work together," Manchin said on Sunday. "We're Americans."
4. An important week away from Capitol Hill. The Senate returns to legislative session next Monday, July 10. If there is a health care deal by then, and it gets approved, all of this hand wringing will be forgotten. But if the bill isn't ready, and there is no deal - then a large chunk of the Trump-GOP agenda remains on hold. As I wrote in a blog from this weekend, if you can't pass health care, and you can't come to a deal on the budget, there are real problems out there that the GOP has not been able to solve. But as noted above, the Rubik's Cube looking daunting, but can be solved after a while. One can imagine that GOP Senators might get an earful at some Independent Day parades.
5. Travel by the President doesn't keep the pressure on Congress. While President Trump has been leaning on GOP lawmakers at times in recent weeks on health care, he is not going to be at the White House making those calls this week. The President will spend Monday at his golf resort in New Jersey before coming back to Washington; he'll spend July 4 at the White House, and then heads to Europe for the G20 Summit. There, the focus will certainly be on any meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Health care will be on the back burner at that point for the White House.