Unable to muster enough votes, Republican leaders in the Senate said on Tuesday that they would not force a final vote on a GOP health care bill this week, trying to get extra time to negotiate a plan which could win the backing of 50 Republican Senators, as a vote seemed like to slip into the month of July.
“It’s a big complicated subject,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who downplayed GOP troubles, vowing not to give up on changes to the Obama health law.
“Legislation of this complexity almost always takes longer than anybody would hope,” McConnell added, as GOP Senators were to meet later in the day with President Donald Trump at the White House.
“We will not be on the bill this week, but we are still working to get 50 people in a comfortable place,” McConnell said.
With five Republicans already saying they couldn’t support the bill unveiled last week – and maybe more opposition lurking in the wings – McConnell didn’t have much of an option, other than to try to re-group and forge a new deal.
“The schedule may have changed a little bit; the one thing that hasn’t changed is that Obamacare is collapsing,” said Sen. John Thune (R-SD).
“We owe it to the people back home to give this every ounce of effort we can,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA).
“We are so close,” Perdue told me as he left a closed door meeting of GOP Senators in the Capitol. “We’ll end up voting on it the minute we get back after the Fourth of July.”
But even with talk of a delay in July, there were also ominous signs for the GOP, as some more moderate Senators cast doubt on how a deal could be reached which bridges the gap between the moderate and conservative wings of the GOP.
There were some in the GOP who were not pleased with the decision to delay; Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said the basic choice is keeping Obamacare or doing something to change it.
“If we’re going to reject something that is offered other than Obamacare, then you are saying you want Obamacare over that,” Inhofe told reporters after leaving the closed door GOP meeting.
But while Inhofe was ready to vote for the GOP bill, more than enough GOP Senators were not – and with only two votes to spare, the Republicans had to change tactics.
“A vote this week would have been rushed,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI).
After the announcement that the vote would be delayed, several GOP Senators then said publicly they were opposed to the bill as written – Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, and Jerry Moran of Kansas.
“I continue to have real concerns about the Medicaid policies in this bill, especially those that impact drug treatment at a time when Ohio is facing an opioid epidemic,” Portman said in a written statement.