The repeal-only measure was expected to fail. But the episode demonstrated the problem facing Republican leaders: They don’t have enough votes to pass a broad replacement of the health law. They also don’t have the votes to simply repeal major parts of it.
What happens on Thursday?
Senate Republicans have been trying to push through a repeal by using special budget rules that limit debate to 20 hours. That time is expected to be exhausted on Thursday.
After it expires, the Senate will move into what is known as a “vote-a-rama” — a marathon series of votes on amendments.
Typically, Democrats would be expected to offer a barrage of amendments. But on Wednesday night, the minority leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, said Democrats would not offer any amendments until Mr. McConnell revealed the final bill he wants the Senate to consider.
“We ought to see it soon, in broad daylight, not at the 11th hour,” Mr. Schumer said.
The vote-a-rama could begin late in the day on Thursday. If Democrats do offer a blizzard of amendments, it could stretch overnight. But it remains unclear when, exactly, Mr. McConnell plans to reveal his legislation.
Republicans seem increasingly likely to try to pass a slimmed-down bill that would repeal only a small number of the existing health law’s provisions. By passing a so-called “skinny” repeal bill, Senate Republicans would keep the repeal effort alive long enough to try to negotiate a broader compromise bill with the House of Representatives.
Has Alaska’s delegation crossed Trump?
President Trump went after Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who was one of only two Republicans to vote against starting debate on health care this week, with a Twitter post on Wednesday.
But that might not be the end of it.
Ryan Zinke, the Interior secretary, called both Ms. Murkowski and Alaska’s other senator, Dan Sullivan, “letting them know the vote had put Alaska’s future with the administration in jeopardy,” The Alaska Dispatch News reported. Mr. Sullivan, also a Republican, voted in favor of beginning debate.
“I’m not going to go into the details, but I fear that the strong economic growth, pro-energy, pro-mining, pro-jobs and personnel from Alaska who are part of those policies are going to stop,” Mr. Sullivan said, according to the newspaper.
But the leverage goes both ways.
Ms. Murkowski is the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has oversight of the Interior Department. She is also the chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the department.