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Senate Health Care Debate Delayed Due To McCain Surgery

congress-healthcare

The fate of the Senate GOP’s revised health care bill is precarious enough that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has delayed the Senate’s consideration of the bill due to the fact that a single Senator will be out of town recovering from surgery:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delayed a vote to repeal and replace Obamacare scheduled for early next week after Sen. John McCain announced he’d be out due to surgery, costing Republicans sufficient votes to move forward.

McConnell gave no new timetable for the vote when he announced the delay late Saturday, saying only that the the Senate will “defer consideration” of the bill while working on other matters. GOP Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan Collins of Maine opposed the bill already, and McCain’s absence next week would likely have made it impossible to proceed.

A half-dozen key senators, including McCain, were undecided on whether to go ahead with a procedural vote, putting the bill’s future in serious jeopardy before McConnell punted.

McCain revealed on Saturday that he had a blood clot removed on Friday at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix. His office said he would spend next week in Arizona recovering from the surgery, leaving McConnell short of the votes to move forward. Republicans control only 52 votes in the chamber, and the early opposition to the bill from Collins and Paul means McConnell can’t afford to lose any more votes from his party given the united Democratic opposition.

“While John is recovering, the Senate will continue our work on legislative items and nominations, and will defer consideration of the Better Care Act,” McConnell said.

A half-dozen key senators, including McCain, were undecided on whether to go ahead with a procedural vote, putting the bill’s future in serious jeopardy before McConnell punted.

McCain revealed on Saturday that he had a blood clot removed on Friday at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix. His office said he would spend next week in Arizona recovering from the surgery, leaving McConnell short of the votes to move forward. Republicans control only 52 votes in the chamber, and the early opposition to the bill from Collins and Paul means McConnell can’t afford to lose any more votes from his party given the united Democratic opposition.

“While John is recovering, the Senate will continue our work on legislative items and nominations, and will defer consideration of the Better Care Act,” McConnell said.

McCain’s surgery does not appear to have been major and it seems as though he will be able to return to Washington by some time next week. Nonetheless, this is an indication of just how narrow the margin of victory is for McConnell. As it stands, there are at least two Senators on record as opposed to the revised Senate plan, with up to ten other Republicans still reportedly on the fence who haven’t announced whether they support the bill or not. This puts McConnell at the absolute limit of where he can be in terms of losing votes from his own caucus. If he loses even one more Senator, then it won’t matter if McCain is there or not, but with McCain out of town and apparently a “yes” vote for the revised bill, proceeding without him would be fatal for the bill.

In the meantime, the battle for the hearts, minds, and votes of the remaining holdout Senators will continue. Much of that could be decided later this week when the Congressional Budget Office is expected to release its score of the bill. If the evaluation reveals more bad numbers for the proposal, as it did for both versions of the replacement bill the House passed in May and the first version of the Senate bill, that could pose problems for Senators such as Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, and, most importantly, Nevada’s Dean Heller, who opposed the Senate bill in its original form and is widely seen as the most vulnerable of all the Republican Senators up for re-election in 2018. If even one of those Senators announces opposition to the bill then it will mean the bill is dead regardless of whether or not McCain is in town.

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. MarkedMan says:

    Over the course of his career I’ve had mixed feelings about McCain. But I’ve gradually come to realize that whatever his personal positions are he will always cave to the party. As his capitulation on torture showed he puts the Republican Party before his country and before himself.

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  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Much of that could be decided later this week when the Congressional Budget Office is expected to release its score of the bill.

    Senate GOP may not use CBO to score Cruz amendment

    Doug, never underestimate the cowardice of the GOP leadership or their ability to obfuscate the truth in service of the 0.1%.

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  3. teve tory says:

    maybe mccain will have some kinda epiphany about how important it is to have health care?

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  4. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @teve tory: I don’t think so. Does it screw over anyone named John, Cindy, or Megan McCain and living in Phoenix? No? Then the bill doesn’t have any notable defects. And will provide the appropriate levels of health care for all of his constitutents.

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  5. MarkedMan says:

    When the Dems get control back, we need to remember who sold out the rest of the country in exchange for benefits for them. I know Alaska is getting special treatment in exchange for their Senators’ votes. When money needs to be raised to clean up the Republican’s mess we need to target those individuals most closely connected to these quislings.

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  6. de stijl says:

    Al Franken has to feel a bit disrespected.

    Where were my delayed votes?

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  7. de stijl says:

    @MarkedMan:

    McCain is a maverick!*

    (* some restrictions apply)

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