WASHINGTON (AP) — The latest GOP effort to repeal and replace "Obamacare" was fatally wounded in the Senate Monday night when two more Republican senators announced their opposition to the legislation strongly backed by President Donald Trump.
The announcements from Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas left the Republican Party's long-promised efforts to get rid of President Barack Obama's health care legislation reeling. Next steps, if any, were not immediately clear.
Lee and Moran both said they could not support Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's legislation in its current form. They joined GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky, both of whom announced their opposition right after McConnell released the bill last Thursday.
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 health care 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.
McConnell's bill "fails to repeal the Affordable Care Act or address healthcare's rising costs. For the same reasons I could not support the previous version of this bill, I cannot support this one," said Moran.
Lee said, "In addition to not repealing 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."
It was the second straight failure for McConnell, who had to cancel a vote on an earlier version of the bill last month when defeat became inevitable.
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 has been the GOP's trademark issue for seven years — ever since 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 have struggled to overcome their deep internal divisions and deliver.
On Monday night, Trump called for Republicans to just repeal Obamacare without an immediate replacement.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., issued a statement that read: "Trumpcare has been a failure since the start given all the ways it would raise families' health care costs and hurt patients, and it is now clearer than ever that writing a mean, partisan bill in secret is no way to get things done. It's time for Senate Republican leaders to reject Trumpcare like the vast majority of patients and families nationwide, stop sabotaging the health care system, and start working with Democrats on policies that actually help the people we serve."