WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans conceded Tuesday they don’t have enough votes yet to replace Obamacare, calling off a showdown on a new version of a partisan plan to overhaul the law.
“We haven’t given up on changing the American health care system,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“We are not going to be able to do that this week. But it still lies ahead of us.”
McConnell did not say how many GOP senators indicated they wouldn’t vote for the revised plan, but he could spare only two defections.
Three Republican senators – Susan Collins, of Maine, John McCain, of Arizona, and Kentucky’s Rand Paul – announced in advance they would vote against it, effectively killing any hope of approval.
Two months ago, the vote on the original repeal bill fell one vote short when McCain joined Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, in opposition.
Surprisingly, Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina swiftly crafted the new version and tried to rush it through in order to beat a Saturday deadline of needing only a simple majority of 51 votes for passage, including that of Vice President Mike Pence, who votes when there is a tie.
“We made the decision (to defer) since we don’t have the votes,” Cassidy acknowledged as he left the weekly GOP policy lunch at the Capitol with Pence.
Graham said the bill would have passed had there been more time to consider it.
Democrats and groups representing doctors, hospitals, and patient groups were jubilant. They contended the bill would have increased the number of uninsured and weakened insurance protections for individuals with pre-existing medical conditions.
In a statement, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said he was “relieved that Senate Republicans are abandoning” a vote on an “irresponsible scheme.”
However, the failure to gut Obamacare enraged conservatives. They again noted many Republicans campaigned on the promise to repeal the law.
“Promise made, promise broken,” Tea Party Patriots said in a statement.
“Once again, Senate Republican ‘leadership’ has demonstrated that its promises are meaningless.”
Collins, a moderate Republican, announced her opposition to the bill’s language eliminating Obamacare funds subsidizing premiums for low- and middle-income individuals, and expanding Medicaid to more people.
McCain opposed the bill for being hurried through the Senate with only a single hearing.
Paul’s opposition was based on his concern over the cost of the legislation.
“This is not the promise we made,” said Paul.
“I went to rally after rally, and I never had one person come up to me and say ‘oh what you mean by repeal is you’re going to keep most of the spending and block grant it to the states.’”
The Cassidy-Graham bill would have repealed the mandate that individuals have health insurance and it allowed states to repeal other regulations, including a ban on insurers charging higher premiums to people with medical conditions.
The bill would have also given a smaller amount than now spent on premium subsidies and Medicaid expansion to states in the form of a block grants.
A major concern for conservatives is that the bill would have left most Obamacare regulations in place, though states could choose to opt out of them.
The group said truer repeal would eliminate the regulations and let states re-enact them if they chose.
CONTACT reporter Kery Murakami at firstname.lastname@example.org.