WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The US Senate’s healthcare overhaul appeared to be in serious trouble yesterday after two more Republicans said they opposed a revised version of the bill.
Senators Mike Lee and Jerry Moran each announced on Twitter yesterday night that they could not support the bill in its current form, bringing to four the number of Republican senators opposed and effectively killing the revised version of the bill.
The news came even as other Republicans senators were meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House, where the president, who made repealing and replacing Obamacare a major promise of his campaign, was lobbying for the bill’s passage. It represents a significant setback for an administration fervently seeking a major legislative victory.
The White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell must now decide whether to chart a different path forward or abandon the effort altogether and turn their attention to other priorities such as tax reform.
“We should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy,” Moran said in a statement on Twitter, slamming what he called a “closed-door” process that produced the bill.
Aides to McConnell were not immediately available for comment, but Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, a Democrat, said in a statement that a second failure of the bill “is proof positive the core of this bill is unworkable.”
There was no immediate comment from the White House.
Republican Senators Susan Collins and Rand Paul had already come out against the bill. With Republicans holding 52 seats in the 100-member Senate, McConnell could not afford another defection from his caucus.
Democrats are united in opposition to the measure to replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, former Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare legislation, popularly known as Obamacare.
The bill was already teetering after an expected vote on going forward with debate on the bill was postponed by McConnell following Republican Senator John McCain’s surgery to remove a blood clot from his head. Collins had estimated on Sunday that at least eight to 10 Republicans had serious doubts about the bill.
A similar version of the bill passed the House in May, but passage in the Senate was always expected to be more difficult, given the deep tensions between moderates who worried about cuts to the Medicaid health insurance program for the poor and disabled and conservatives who wanted those cuts as well as a more dramatic dismantling of Obamacare’s framework.
The first version of the Senate bill failed to attract enough support, forcing McConnell’s office to revise it in a bid to make it more palatable. That version was released last week.
McConnell could also choose to attempt to work with Senate Democrats on a bipartisan bill to reform Obamacare, an option he threatened to pursue earlier this month if Republicans did not line up in support of the revised bill.
Schumer held out that possibility in his statement, urging 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.”