The biggest news of the day was centered around the Senate Vote on the American Health Care Act. While there are no texts available to discuss, there are still several important things we can glean from the publicly available data posted by the Senate Clerk.
The Senate submitted their first Amendment (S. Amdt. 267) to the existing House of Representatives Bill, H.R. 1628, today (July 25, 2017) and then submitted subsequent Amendments (S. Amdt. 270, S. Amdt. 271, S. Amdt. 272, S. Amdt. 273, S. Amdt 274, and S. Amdt 275) to the initial amendment.
A procedural vote was held to bring the Senate-amended version of the American Health Care Act to the floor for debate and a final vote. The procedural vote was split 50-50 along party lines with the two Senate Independents, and Senators Murkowski of Alaska and Collins of Maine voting Nay. Vice President Mike Pence broke the tie with a Yea vote.
Following debate, the Senate brought the following version of the bill to the floor: Senate Amendment 270 to Senate Amendment 267. This indicates that Senate Amendment 267 was the initial amended version of the House Bill (H.R. 1628), and that S. Amdt 270 added further changes to the initial amended version. The vote failed by a tally of 43-57. The vote was along party lines with all Democratic Senators, the two Senate Independents, and Senators Collins (Republican – Maine), Murkowski (Republican – Alaska), Corker (Republican – Tennessee), Cotton (Republican – Arkansas), Graham (Republican – South Carolina), Heller (Republican – Nevada), Lee (Republican – Utah), Moran (Republican – Kansas), and Paul (Republican – Kentucky) voting Nay.
Aside from the original (and now out of date) House version of H.R. 1628, there are no publicly available records published to indicate what the bill that the Senate voted upon today fully entails.
To clarify procedure, a bill is proposed in the House or Senate. If the bill passes, it is submitted to the opposite branch of Congress. In this case, from the House to the Senate. There, the Senate or House can make amendments as they see fit, pass the bill, and send the bill back to the branch of origination for review, further amendments (if necessary), and another vote. Typically a committee made of members of both the House and Senate will convene to discuss the goals of each branch if there are several volleys of the bill. The paths forward for H.R. 1628 would have been / can be as follows:
1.) House passes H.R. 1628 —–> Senate passes H.R. 1628 as received ——-> President signs into law
2.) House passes H.R. 1628 ——> Senate passes H.R. 1628 with amendments—–> House passes amended H.R. 1628—–> President signs into law
3.) House passes H.R. 1628 —–> Senate passes H.R. 1628 with amendments—–> House adds further amendments and passes H.R. 1628—–> Senate receives H.R. 1628 with additional amendments and either passes the bill and sends to the President, or works in committee with the House to meet in the middle—-> If more adjustments are made the bill will be passed out of the Senate, sent back to the House, and (if a consensus in committee was reached) passed out of the House to the President. This cycle can go on for many iterations.
4.) House Passes H.R. 1628 —-> Senate Passes H.R. 1628 —–> Presidential Veto. The bill is dead in its current form and must be sent back to Congress to be amended.
5.) A proposed amendment to the bill does not kill the original bill entirely – but if a vote on an amendment fails as it did today, another form of the bill can still pass. The Senate is poised to vote on other amendments that were proposed on Wednesday, July 26.
6.) The bill can wallow without being passed by a vote until the end of the legislative -year cycle. At this point, all bills that are unpassed are “dead” and must be reintroduced at the beginning of the next legislative year.