Critics of the bill, who had feared a rushed push to enact it into law, will now have at least two more weeks to pressure senators in their home states and marshal even broader opposition. Yet it would be premature to consider the bill dead. House Republican leaders were also forced to put off a vote on their bill earlier this year only to work out a compromise that allowed it to pass weeks later.
With that recent history in mind, Democrats held off on declaring victory.“It’s not over until it’s over, and it’s not dead until it’s dead,” Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland said. “The fact that Senate Republicans have delayed the vote on their health care bill is welcome news, but it means we have to redouble our efforts to fight it over the July 4th holiday and beyond.”
McConnell, too, insisted the legislation remained very much alive. Despite an aggressive push to pass the bill this week, he tried to downplay the delay. “We’re still optimistic we’re going to get there,” he said. “Legislation of this complexity almost always takes longer than anyone else would hope.”
With the bill in doubt, President Trump stepped in to try to play deal-maker. The president invited all 52 Republican senators to the White House for a meeting Tuesday afternoon after initially having little involvement in the Senate’s deliberations. “We’re getting very close,” Trump said at the outset. He was flanked on either side by two of the Senate bill’s biggest skeptics, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Collins announced her opposition on Monday and expressed doubts that the proposal could be tweaked to win her support, calling instead for Republicans to engage Democrats in bipartisan talks.Trump, who has mused repeatedly about allowing Obamacare to collapse on his own, framed the effort to pass the Senate bill in less than urgent terms. “This will be great if we get it done,” he said. “And if we don’t get it done, it’s just going to be something that we’re not going to like, and that’s okay, and I understand that very well.”
The engagement from the president comes amid tensions between Trump’s allies and Senate leaders after a pro-Trump super PAC launched ads attacking Senator Dean Heller over his opposition to the bill. Heller is considered the GOP’s most vulnerable senator up for reelection next year, and The New York Times reported Tuesday that McConnell told Reince Priebus, Trump’s chief of staff, that the move was “beyond stupid.”
McConnell made clear GOP leaders were not yet ready to turn to Democrats in hopes of a bipartisan agreement on fixes to Obamacare. “They’re not interested in participating in this,” he said. After meeting with Trump, however, McConnell acknowledged that if Republicans could not pass a bill on their own, they’d have to work with Democrats to stabilize the individual market. But Republicans, he said, were unlikely to win Democratic backing for the changes to Medicaid and the private market they’ve prioritized.