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GOP aides say "skinny repeal" could become law if it passes the Senate

(J. Scott Applewhite / AP)

Despite GOP senators' adamant declarations that they don't want their "skinny repeal" bill to become law if they pass it, there's at least a decent chance that's exactly what happens, some staffers openly say.

"Coin. Flipped," one senior aide responded when I asked what the chances were of the bill becoming law.

Yet GOP senators are saying the bill is merely a vehicle to get to a conference committee with the House, saying the policy itself is bad. "The skinny bill as policy is a disaster," Sen. Lindsey Graham told reporters earlier Thursday.

An outlier: Sen. Mike Lee is evaluating the bill in its face, his office said, as if it passes it's "very" likely to become law. When asked why, spokesman Conn Carroll said it's the "path of least resistance."

And while some Republicans said they received further assurance from Speaker Paul Ryan on a call this evening, spokeswoman AshLee Strong said the speaker told them "exactly what his statement said: that we'll go to conference if they pass something tonight. And then the onus is on the Senate to show it can pass a real plan with 51 votes."

What could happen:

  • As House Republicans say openly, the Senate has yet to demonstrate it can come up with a replacement plan that gets 50 votes. There's yet to be a reason for this to change in conference.
  • If it turns out that once again nothing can pass the Senate, the House will still have the skinny repeal bill. And President Trump really, really wanting to sign something.
  • That puts a lot of pressure on the House to pass the bill. So if one thing leads to another, skinny repeal passes and becomes the law of the land.
  • Disclaimer: One senior House aide told me that "I don't think we can pass something completely anorexic."