Shelved: One GOP Senator Puts Obamacare Repeal on Hold

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We’ve become accustomed to pointing the finger at Sen. John McCain when it comes to stalling the Trump agenda – or even the agenda of the larger conservative movement – but this time around, we can’t actually blame his oft-misguided ideological standpoint. McCain has, however, inadvertently put the Obamacare repeal effort on hold for at least a week, since he will be recovering from surgery and absent from the Senate floor.

On Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that he would put consideration of the new healthcare legislation on hold until Sen. McCain returned to his seat.

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

McCain has been advised by his doctors to remain at his home in Arizona next week while he recovers from surgery to remove a blood clot from above his left eye. His absence makes it virtually impossible for Republicans to move forward on a healthcare vote; they only enjoy a four-seat majority on the Democrats and thus can only afford – at most – two defectors. And with Sens. Ran Paul and Susan Collins already having announced their intention to vote against the bill, the GOP has exactly no room left for error.

This is the second time McConnell has been forced to delay a vote on the legislation. He withdrew the GOP leadership’s original version of the bill after it was hammered with criticism from both the moderate and conservative wings of the party. Both the old legislation and the new, of course, has been roundly and unanimously opposed by every elected Democrat in the country, as they see the repeal effort as a direct political threat to Barack Obama’s legacy. But because the GOP cannot count on even a single swing vote from across the aisle, they have to have nearly everyone in the Republican Party on the same page. That has proven to be a hell of a task, and it’s still not clear if McConnell has all the votes he needs to put this bill on the president’s desk.

This unforeseen medical postponement will be interesting to watch, therefore. On the one hand, it gives McConnell and Vice President Mike Pence more time to get out there and do the hard lobbying it will take to bring this bill into law. On the other, it also gives the bill’s opponents a chance to make their case against it in the media. That case may be bolstered by a new CBO report, which is expected to land next week as well.

Insider reports appear to indicate that Republicans understand very well what failure here would do to their chances of re-election next November and beyond; let’s hope that understanding leads them to finally come through on a promise each and every one of them made to their respective constituents.