Tennessee’s Republican senators in Washington, D.C., were divided Wednesday on repealing significant portions of Obamacare.
Sen. Bob Corker voted for a health care bill amendment to repeal the Affordable Care Act, while Sen. Lamar Alexander voted against it. Put forward by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), the amendment would have given lawmakers two years to develop a replacement plan.
The Senate will now debate measures that won’t alter Obamacare as much as the amendment defeated Wednesday.
Radio talk show host Phil Valentine speculated on his show Wednesday that Corker, considered a moderate by some conservatives, voted for repeal because he is up for election next year and knew the vote would play well with Tennessee voters. Corker has not said whether he will seek a third term.
In a statement released before Wednesday’s vote, Corker said:
As I have said before, I believe the best path forward is for Congress to repeal Obamacare after a reasonable transition period. This amendment would take us back to a level playing field where, by a date certain, all sides have incentive to work together to develop a health care replacement that would generate broad support and stand the test of time. I urge my colleagues to support this amendment and am eager to continue our work on this issue.
In a statement explaining his vote against repeal without an immediate replacement plan, Alexander said:
I agree with President Trump that we should repeal and replace major parts of the Affordable Care Act at the same time. In 2015, we could have waited two years for relief, but we cannot now, when Tennessee insurance commissioner Julie McPeak says the state’s individual insurance market is ‘very near collapse.’ We have 350,000 Tennesseans who buy insurance in the individual market—songwriters, small businessmen and women, farmers—who are worried today that they may have zero options for insurance in just six months.
In addition, I don’t think Tennesseans would be comfortable canceling insurance for 22 million Americans, and trusting Congress to find a replacement in two years. Pilots like to know where they’re going to land when they take off, and we should too.
Alexander was one of seven Republican senators voting against repeal. The others were John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Dean Heller of Nevada, and Rob Portman of Ohio. No Democrats voted for repeal.
Wednesday’s vote was the latest in a series of rocky events reflecting an inability on the part of Republicans to effectively address health care despite having control of the White House and both houses of Congress.