Skip to main content

What the Senate's 51-50 health care vote actually means

Here's what happened Tuesday, and what to watch for next.

They have no clear idea what bill might eventually be voted on. And it was so close the vice president had to come in to keep things moving along.

But Republicans in the U.S. Senate successfully voted Tuesday to keep the door open for a possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act (with the "replace" part TBD). 

The "motion to proceed," as it's called, passed 51-50. This vote doesn't actually repeal or replace anything – all it means is the Senate voted to have an open debate about the healthcare overhaul the House passed in May, the American Health Care Act.

Even if it's a procedural vote, as it's been described, this was a key step. If it had been rejected, this particular path toward a possible Obamacare repeal/replace would have been shut down, The Hill noted.

Who voted for and against it?

Republicans have 52 seats, compared to 48 for Democrats plus the left-leaning Independents. The GOP needed a simple majority (51 votes) to get the motion to proceed through.

That meant the GOP party could only afford for two of its senators to vote no. 

Those two came in the form of Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska). Collins and Murkowski joined the 46 Democrats and two Independents in voting against it.

The other big question was Sen. John McCain, but he came in just days after his brain cancer diagnosis to vote in favor of it (though noted that doesn't mean he'll vote for the "shell" the current bill is).

That made it a 50-50 tie, and led to Mike Pence's moment in the Senate spotlight.

How did Minnesota's senators vote?

As mentioned above, all Democrats were against this.

That included Minnesota's two senators, Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar. Neither have been in support of undoing the Affordable Care Act.

What to look for next

It will probably be a bit chaotic.

The senators Tuesday technically voted to debate the House's American Health Care Act, but knew full well their version of an Obamacare repeal/replace would end up looking quite different through this process, CNN explained.

As Business Insider explains, the Senate will now have 20 hours of debate on the health care bill – with Democrats and Republicans each getting equal time.

And senators will be able to offer up amendments (small tweaks or significant changes to the bill), which could then get approved or shot down.

The goal for top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell is to come out the other side with a bill that has enough support to actually pass. What it will and won't include is educated guess work at this point – it's a chunk of health care clay that a lot of people will try to get their handprint on.

And that's not the only hurdle they face, with this Atlantic story laying out the challenge of the reconciliation process.

This is the method the Republicans are using to get this done, and it only needs 51 votes to pass. But there are rules about what can and can't be done under reconciliation.

Some of the things GOP senators might want to include – such as Planned Parenthood funding – relate to federal budgets and as such might not be allowed to pass using this method, the Atlantic explains, and would instead require 60 votes (meaning Democrats are required).

After that, if something actually passes, it'll then have to be matched with the House's version somehow ... so yeah, there are a lot of hurdles and an Affordable Care Act repeal is a ways away.

Next Up

Screen Shot 2022-06-26 at 10.02.59 AM

North Dakota's only abortion clinic relocating to Minnesota

A GoFundMe set up to help the clinic make the move to Minnesota has surpassed its $500,000 goal.

Screen Shot 2022-06-26 at 12.37.03 PM

Deadly vehicle fire on Interstate 94 west of Fargo

The victim's age and name have not been released.

flickr - gov tim walz - mn senate dfl

Overturning Roe v. Wade won't do a 'damn thing' to prevent abortions, Walz says

Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order Saturday meant to protect abortion access in the state and people who come from out of state seeking one.


Man crossing Highway 13 in Burnsville fatally struck by driver

The victim is a 31-year-old man from Prior Lake.

Screen Shot 2022-06-26 at 7.50.33 AM

4 shot near Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis

The shooting happened around 11 p.m. Saturday.

Screen Shot 2022-06-25 at 7.55.28 PM

Charges: Cop feared for his life during struggle for gun with suspect

Allen Denzel Oliver-Hall has been charged with second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon.

Burnsville, Minnesota - May 2019 (2)

Shootout near Erik's Bike Shop, Lunds & Byerlys in Burnsville

Police say youths were shooting at each other on Saturday afternoon.

minnesota river

Fishermen find body floating in Minnesota River in Shakopee

The body was found upstream from Minnesota River Heritage Park.


The Republican health care plan vote is dead – so what happens next?

Republican support for the new health care overhaul wasn't strong enough to get it passed.

22 million more uninsured under Senate's health care overhaul, estimate says

That figure is slightly lower than what's projected for the House version of the health care bill.

What's in Senate Republicans' health care cost plan – and why Democrats don't like it

It's the first major step to address a problem both parties have acknowledged.

How Minnesota's congresspeople voted on the American Health Care Act

The new health care bill passed the House, and now heads to the Senate.

Politics in 2017: Trump and Dayton argue health care over Twitter

The president-elect and the governor of Minnesota, trading barbs on Twitter.

Angry Minnesotans challenge Erik Paulsen, Jason Lewis over health care vote

The two Republican congressmen voted in favor of the American Health Care Act.

Update: Help with health insurance costs is on the way

Not in the agreement? A proposal that would have let health insurance that doesn't meet Affordable Care Act requirements be sold in the state.

Graham-Cassidy: The latest Republican health care bill is dead

Republican leaders said they don't have enough votes to pass Graham-Cassidy.