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Senate delays vote on health care bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) speaks to

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) speaks to the media after announcing he would not hold a vote on the Republican health care bill in the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday, June 27, 2017. Credit: EPA / Jim Lo Scalzo

WASHINGTON — Faced with a revolt within his own party, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday delayed a planned vote on his Republican health care bill until after the July Fourth recess, a setback in the quest to replace the Affordable Care Act.

The plan by McConnell (R-Ky.) to pass a replacement for Obamacare veered off track after five Republican senators said they would not vote to take up the bill this week, a day after a Congressional Budget Office analysis said it would cause 22 million to lose their insurance.

“We are going to continue the discussions within our conference on the differences that we have,” McConnell said outside the Senate chamber. “Consequently, we will not be on the bill this week, but we are still working toward getting at least 50 people in a comfortable place.”

Republican senators — including conservative and moderate factions pulling in opposite direction on the bill — then went to the White House for an afternoon meeting with President Donald Trump to discuss ways to resolve the differences.

“We have really no choice but to solve the situation. Obamacare is melting down,” Trump said at the beginning of the afternoon meeting in the East Room.

But he added, “This will be great if we get it done. And if we don’t get it done, it’s just going to be something that we’re not going to like. And that’s OK. I understand that very well.”

After the meeting, McConnell said they made “good progress” and expressed optimism that Republicans will come to a solution, saying they all were “interested in getting to yes” in negotiating fixes to the bill.

“I had hoped we could have gotten to the floor this week,” McConnell said. “I think we have a really good chance of getting there. It will just take a little longer.”

McConnell must get the votes of 50 of his 52 members to allow Vice President Mike Pence to cast the tie-breaking vote because of the opposition to the bill by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and his 48-member caucus.

McConnell said Senate Republicans face a choice.

“Either Republicans will agree and change the status quo, or the markets will continue to collapse and we’ll have to sit down with Sen. Schumer,” he said, adding that if Republicans had to negotiate with Democrats, they would have to give up reforms they want to make in the individual insurance markets and in Medicaid.

Republicans are mostly split between those who want a complete repeal of Obamacare and more efforts to lower premiums and those who have raised concerns about reductions in Medicaid spending in their states and people losing their health insurance.

Four conservative Republican senators — Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas — said they remained opposed to the bill because it does not go far enough in repealing Obamacare.

But more moderate Republicans, such as Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), also said they could not vote the current Senate Republican bill.

Before going to the White House, where she was seated next to Trump during the meeting, Collins told reporters that she was willing to hear what Trump had to say.

But she added, “I will say that I have so many fundamental problems with the bill that have been confirmed by the CBO report that it’s difficult for me to see how any tinkering is going to satisfy my fundamental and deep concerns about the impact of the bill.”

McConnell and Trump have been holding meetings with the resistant senators. Paul has twice gone to the White House to discuss the bill.

Republicans have made repealing and replacing Obamacare a centerpiece of their campaigns and program since the passage of the sweeping legislation in 2010 by what was then the Senate Democratic majority.

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