Washington (AFP) – The Republican effort to squash Obamacare was pushed to the brink Monday as Senator John McCain, whose vote is needed to pass the legislation, was recovering from surgery away from Washington.
There are no votes to spare in the contentious effort to pass a new health care bill through Congress, where Republican leaders are desperate to fulfill President Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to dismantle the 2010 reforms of his predecessor Barack Obama.
So when McCain, 80, announced over the weekend that doctors in Phoenix removed a five-centimeter (two-inch) blood clot above his eye, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would “defer” the upcoming vote on the bill by at least a week.
Republicans hold 52 of the chamber’s 100 seats, but two members of the party — one conservative and one moderate — have already declared their opposition. Democrats are united against the legislation.
Several others Republicans have expressed reservations, leaving the bill hanging by a thread just weeks before the Senate decamps for its summer recess — a break already delayed in a bid to wrangle support for the controversial plan.
Unlike in some legislatures around the world, US lawmakers must be present in Congress to vote.
Senate leadership held to the idea that a vote was forthcoming.
“I believe as soon as we have a full contingent of senators, that we’ll have that vote,” number two Senate Republican John Cornyn told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
But as lawmakers returned to Washington Monday, divisions remained apparent, particularly among senators whose states opted under Obamacare to expand Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor and the disabled.
The new bill would gradually roll back the program, a move that some Republicans warn could lead to millions losing coverage.
Senator Rob Portman of Ohio said lawmakers concerned about the Medicaid provisions were “still having discussions” with leadership about a path forward.
“Still trying to improve it,” he told a crush of reporters.
Trump, who has had his differences with McCain, on Monday wished the iconic senator a speedy recovery.
“We miss him,” Trump said of the 2008 Republican presidential candidate, who has not hesitated to criticize the current leader.
“He’s a crusty voice in Washington — plus, we need his vote,” Trump added.
Spokesman Sean Spicer said the president would invite several senators to the White House later Monday to discuss the measure.
– Recovery time for McCain –