The Senate is once again delaying its vote on the controversial effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act while Sen. John McCain recovers from surgery that he had on Friday to remove a blood clot above his left eye. Although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan was to quickly vote on the legislation this week, McCain’s surgery left Republicans scrambling as what already promised to be a tight vote would prove to be impossible without the senator from Arizona. McConnell didn’t specify when the bill would be voted on, saying only that the Senate will “defer consideration of the Better Care Act.”
McConnell’s announcement came shortly after McCain’s office issued a statement disclosing the surgery and noting that doctors had advised the senator to stay in Arizona next week to recover. “Following a routine annual physical, Sen. John McCain underwent a procedure to remove a blood clot from above his left eye on Friday, July 14 at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix,” notes the statement. “Surgeons successfully removed the 5-cm blood clot during a minimally invasive craniotomy with an eyebrow incision.”
Even before McCain’s statement and the deferment, the Republican effort to pass its broad overhaul of the country’s health care was already hanging by a thread. Republicans control 52 votes in the Senate and Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan Collins of Maine opposed the bill already, meaning the GOP couldn’t afford to lose any more votes. But at least six key senators, including McCain, had yet to express full support for the legislation.
The delay on the health care vote meant yet another setback for the effort to repeal Obamacare that once seemed to be a done deal after years of promises from Republicans. The New York Times explains:
With control of the White House and both houses of Congress, Republican leaders foresaw a quick strike coming as soon as January or February. But the House struggled to pass its version of the bill, and the Senate has had even more troubles. Mr. McConnell had to postpone the first votes before the July 4 recess when it was clear he did not have enough support for a procedural motion to take up the bill.
Now opponents of the bill will have more time to organize and rally voters against the controversial legislation that has already been criticized by governors of both parties. Two powerful members of the insurance industry lobby, for example, sent a letter to McConnell saying that an amendment from Sen. Ted Cruz greenlighting the sale of bare-bones policy as “unworkable in any form.” The rare joint statement by America’s Health Care Plans and the BlueCross BlueShield Association said that the measure would “undermine protections for those with pre-existing medical conditions” while increasing premiums and unleashing a wave of “terminations of coverage.”