The Senate on Monday blocked subsidies for insurance sold on Obamacare’s state exchanges, as Democrats tried to keep Republicans from making another shutdown-level standoff a reality.
The GOP bill to repeal and replace Obamacare would extend insurance subsidies to consumers for three years.
The move comes as Republicans are trying to avoid a shutdown that would force them to raise the debt ceiling or risk defaulting on its $19 trillion debt.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday he has “not made up my mind” on whether to go ahead with the subsidy block.
Senate Republicans want to avoid the threat of a government shutdown by passing their legislation in the Senate.
The Senate passed a bill to keep the government open, but it failed to pass the House, where Democrats voted to end debate.
They did not allow the Senate to take up a reconciliation bill that would pass both chambers.
A House vote is expected Wednesday.
Republicans said Monday they want to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s taxes and regulations without making changes to the law.
“There are plenty of ways to do that,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) said on the Senate floor.
“This is not a clean bill.
But we can’t do it without making major changes to this law.”
The Senate voted 56-45 on Monday to block the subsidies.
It passed the Senate bill with just one Republican vote.
The bill would extend the subsidies until 2020 and would let insurers sell insurance on the exchanges.
The House bill would end subsidies for three months.
Democrats also are trying a different approach to prevent a government default.
The chamber approved a bipartisan bill that could force President Donald Trump to use the government’s borrowing authority to pay for a government run out of the Treasury to continue paying down the nation’s $16 trillion debt and the cost of medical and other health care services.
Democrats and Republicans are still negotiating a final deal to avoid default.
Democrats say they will not give up on repealing Obamacare in the next week or two.
“We will keep fighting, and we will never give up,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.).
“The stakes are too high.”
House Democrats said in a statement they support extending the subsidies for six months.
Republicans have promised to take the fight to the White House, arguing that Obamacare is too important to let it die.
“Congress must act, and the House of Representatives has a responsibility to act,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch Stalenberg (D) said in an emailed statement.
“The White House must be held accountable for the failure of its promise to deliver health care coverage to millions of Americans.”