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Vote delayed as GOP struggles to marshal support for health care Bill

Thomas Kaplan & Robert Pearjune | NYT |  Jun 29, 2017 03:41 AM IST
Mitch McConell,US Senator,Republican Party (Photo: Flickr)
Facing intransigent Republican opposition, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, on Tuesday delayed a vote on legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, dealing another setback to Republicans’ seven-year effort to dismantle the health law and setting up a long, heated summer of health care battles.

McConnell faced resistance from across his conference, not only from the most moderate and conservative senators but from others as well. Had he pressed forward this week, he almost surely would have lacked the votes even to begin debate on the Bill.

“We will not be on the Bill this week, but we’re still working toward getting at least 50 people in a comfortable place,” said McConnell, who is known as a canny strategist but was forced to acknowledge on Tuesday that he had more work to do.

The delay pushes Senate consideration of the Bill until after a planned recess for the Fourth of July, but it does not guarantee that Republican senators will come together. Opponents of the bill, including patient advocacy groups and medical organisations, plan to lobby senators in their home states next week. Senators are likely to be dogged by demonstrators. Democrats vowed to keep up the pressure, and some Republican senators have suggested that their votes will be difficult to win.

After meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House, McConnell told reporters that if Republicans could not come to an agreement, they would be forced to negotiate a deal with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader.

“The status quo is simply unsustainable,” McConnell said. “It’ll be dealt with in one of two ways: Either Republicans will agree and change the status quo, or the markets will continue to collapse, and we’ll have to sit down with Senator Schumer. And my suspicion is that any negotiation with the Democrats would include none of the reforms that we would like to make.” Republicans have promised for seven years to repeal the health law. But McConnell’s announcement on Tuesday was yet another major stumble in the unsteady quest by Republican congressional leaders to deliver a repeal Bill to the desk of Trump, who has yet to sign his first piece of marquee legislation. McConnell, the chief author of the Senate repeal Bill, can afford to lose only two of the 52 Republican senators, but more than a half-dozen have, for widely divergent reasons, expressed deep reservations about the Bill.

Trump, meeting with Republican senators, declared, “We’re getting very close... This will be great if we get it done,” he said. “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, and I understand that very well.”
© 2017 The New York Times News Service 

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