0731 GMT February 29, 2020
With the Senate bill delayed until after the July 4 congressional recess, the timeline of the effort – and the overall viability of a years-long bid to dismantle Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA) in favor of a Republican replacement – was thrown into question, AFP reported.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged he did not have the votes, after a non-partisan forecast projected the bill would swell the ranks of the uninsured by 22 million by 2026 as compared to current law.
"We will not be on the bill this week, but we're still working toward getting at least 50 people in a comfortable place," he said in announcing the delay.
"We're not quite there, but I think we've got a really good chance of getting there," he added. "It'll just take us a little bit longer."
Republicans hold 52 Senate seats. They need at least 50 votes, as Vice President Mike Pence would break the tie in favor of the measure.
But at least nine Republican senators have now said they oppose the bill as is.
After the announcement, Republican senators headed to the White House for an urgent meeting with Trump, who made it clear that the pressure was on.
"We have to have health care, and it can't be Obamacare which is melting down," Trump said, as dozens of lawmakers sat grim-faced around a White House conference table.
But he also signaled that there might not be a path forward.
"This will be great if we get it done. And if we don't get it done it's going to be something that we're not going to like, and that's OK," Trump said.
Fractures among GOPs
The Senate delay is a huge blow to Republican lawmakers who have spent the last seven years plotting an end to the ACA, commonly known as Obamacare.
It also highlights the fractures within the party over how to improve the health care system while not cutting millions of Americans out of insurance coverage.
McConnell insisted after the Trump meeting that "everyone around the table is interested in getting to yes."
The Senate draft would save some $321 billion in federal spending over the 2017-2016 period, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
But it would balloon out-of-pocket medical expenses for the working poor and those age 50 to 64.
It would abolish the requirement for most Americans to have health insurance, likely resulting in healthy people dropping off the rolls.
And it provides hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts to insurers and the wealthy, while allowing states to drop currently mandated benefits such as maternity care and hospital services, according to CBO.
The bill would also delay cuts to the Medicaid health program for poorer Americans and the disabled, although Medicaid cuts would be severe in the long term.