The latest version of the Republican plan for healthcare reform foundered last night after two more GOP senators said they would not back the measure, making it impossible for majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to muster enough votes for passage.
Late last night McConnell said Republicans would instead take up legislation to repeal Obamacare on a two-year delay, kicking the can down the road on healthcare reform until after the 2018 mid-term elections. That idea was rejected by Republicans months ago, to avoid chaos in insurance markets, in favor of simultaneously repealing and replacing Obamacare.
“Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful,” McConnell said in a statement. “In the coming days, the Senate will vote to take up the House bill with the first amendment in order being what a majority of the Senate has already supported in 2015 and that was vetoed by then-President Obama: A repeal of Obamacare with a two-year delay to provide for a stable transition period.”
McConnell’s hand was forced by the defections of Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), who joined Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in opposing the Better Care Act. Earlier this week McConnell delayed a showdown over the bill after Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) underwent surgery to remove a 2-in. blood clot above his left eye.
The defeat follows seven straight years of Republican pledges to do away with the Affordable Care Act, only to have polls show that the public liked Obamacare more than their proposals. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the various GOP versions would cause 18 million to 23 million people to lose their health insurance.
Republicans, arguing that Obamacare is a government over-reach and costs too much money, haven’t been able to sell their ideas despite their control of both chambers of Congress and the White House.
Markets take a hit on the uncertainty
Yesterday’s events prompted Asian shares to step back from more than two-year highs today as the dollar extended its losses. In the U.S., the latest setback delivered a major political blow to the Trump administration, which has failed to post a major legislative win during its first six months.
Today on Twitter the president urged Congress to immediately repeal Obamacare, “start from a clean slate” and claimed that Democrats would get on board despite their refusal to touch anything that would affect the ACA. Trump later castigated Democrats and some Republicans, vowing to return with “a great healthcare plan.”
“We were let down by all of the Democrats and a few Republicans. Most Republicans were loyal, terrific & worked really hard. We will return!” Trump wrote on the social media site. “As I have always said, let ObamaCare fail and then come together and do a great healthcare plan. Stay tuned!”
Democratic leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also urged Republicans to “start from scratch and work with Democrats on a bill that lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the markets and improves our health care system.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) celebrated the “collapse” of the Republican effort.
“This is a great victory for the millions of Americans who stood up and fought back against this dangerous legislation,” Sanders said in a statement.
McCain, recovering from surgery at home in Arizona, urged bipartisanship.
“The Congress must now return to regular order, hold hearings, receive input from members of both parties” and pass a bill that “finally provides Americans with access to quality and affordable health care,” he said in a statement.
Material from Reuters was used in this report.