Heading into Tuesday's health care reform vote in the Senate, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito shifted her stance on Obamacare repeal when she announced that she would vote "aye" to open up the debate to repeal and replace the health care law. Although the West Virginia Senator had been critical of the Senate bill in the past, her statement from Tuesday indicated that Capito wants to play ball with her fellow Republicans instead.
Per her statement posted to Twitter on Tuesday:
Today, I will vote to begin debate to repeal and replace Obamacare. As this process advances on the Senate floor, I will continue to make decisions that are in the best interest of West Virginians. I remain committed to reforming our health care system while also addressing the concerns I have voiced for months. I will continue to push for policies that result in affordable health care coverage for West Virginians, including those who are in the Medicaid population and those struggling with addiction.
Prior to Tuesday's vote though, Capito had been among those most vehemently against moves to repeal without an adequate replacement or reform plan, frequently citing the various ways the existing Senate bill would harm rural voters (including her constituents in West Virginia). In fact, earlier this week, Capito was still being named alongside Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska as GOP senators who oppose the existing legislation's failures to address Medicaid, Planned Parenthood, and opioid epidemic-related concerns. Initially celebrated for her hard stance against the Senate bill and her statements that she "did not come to Washington to hurt people" following the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis of the bill, she was expected to hold rank with them.
However, considering the pressure from her party to vote to move forward with the debate, it's possible that Capito's separation from the other two senators isn't too disconnected from her previous half-inclusion in the closed-door dealings back in May. Capito's stance on the bill has been a point of interest for weeks now, after she was invited to appear as a guest at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's special working group on health care reform in May (despite being snubbed at first). McConnell included her after being criticized for inviting only men to the meeting.
And, seemingly enough, as Capito told the West Virginia Gazette Mail following her vote, she still believes the chance to debate (and have a seat at the table) might be enough to create a plan that she could stomach voting for:
I think, with sufficient resources, that the numbers of those that would be covered in my state, and could be covered and receive coverage, and have more choices, could hopefully be as good or maybe better [under a replacement.] Maybe you don’t think that sounds like a believable statement, but let’s have the debate, let’s see what comes up on the floor, let’s see what I vote for and what I vote against, and then we can make those determinations as we move through.
She added in that same interview that she still doesn't think she would vote for a bill that led to the CBO's devastating predictions of millions of people losing care:
I doubt it, but I don’t know, I don’t know until I see it. I’m hoping I don’t have that option, because I don’t think it’s in the best interests of the country to add to the uninsured by 22 million people. That’s not my goal.
Although the existing legislation is not her "goal," Capito appears determined to be a part of the discussions this time.