The latest Republican effort to repeal and replace 'Obamacare' has been fatally wounded in the US Senate after two more GOP senators announced their opposition to the legislation strongly backed by President Donald Trump.
- Senators Lee and Moran say they can't support legislation in its current form
- Two other Republican senators already oppose the move
- Rebel senators say the bill doesn't go far enough in undoing Obamacare
The announcements from senators Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas left the party's long-promised efforts to get rid of former president Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act reeling. The next steps, if any, were not immediately clear.
Senator Lee and Senator Moran both said they could not support Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's legislation in its current form. They joined GOP senators Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky, both of whom announced their opposition right after Senator McConnell released the bill last Thursday.
Senator McConnell is now at least two votes short in the closely divided Senate and may have to go back to the drawing board or even begin to negotiate with Democrats, a prospect he's threatened but resisted so far.
Or he could abandon the healthcare effort — which has proven more difficult than many Republicans envisioned after campaigning on the issue for years — and move on to tax legislation, a bigger Trump priority to begin with.
Senator McConnell's bill, "fails to repeal the Affordable Care Act or address health care's rising costs", Senator Moran said.
"For the same reasons I could not support the previous version of this bill, I cannot support this one."
Senator Lee said the bill did not repeal all of the Obamacare taxes.
"It doesn't go far enough in lowering premiums for middle-class families, nor does it create enough free space from the most costly Obamacare regulations," he said.
It was the second straight failure for Senator McConnell, who had to cancel a vote on an earlier version of the bill last month when defeat became inevitable.
Mr Trump had kept his distance from the Senate process, but Monday night's development was a major blow for him, too, as the President failed to rally support for what had been the GOP's trademark issue for seven years, ever since Mr Obama and the Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans won the White House and full control of Congress in large part on the basis of their promises to repeal and replace Obamacare, but struggled to overcome their deep internal divisions.
The Senate bill, like an earlier version that barely passed the House, eliminated mandates and taxes under Obamacare, and unravelled an expansion of the Medicaid healthcare program for the poor and disabled.
Moderates like Senator Collins viewed the bill as too extreme in yanking insurance coverage from millions.
Senator McConnell's latest version aimed to satisfy both camps, by incorporating language by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas allowing insurers to sell skimpy plans alongside more robust ones, and by adding billions to treat opioid addiction and to defray consumer costs.
But his efforts did not achieve the intended result.
There was no immediate reaction from Senator McConnell's office. But Democrats could barely contain their glee.
"This second failure of Trumpcare is proof positive that the core of this bill is unworkable," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said.
"Rather than repeating the same failed, partisan process yet again, Republicans should start from scratch and work with Democrats on a bill that lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the markets and improves our healthcare system."
There were at least a half-dozen or so undecided Republican senators, so it was expected more "no" votes would be announced in the hours and days ahead.