Republican senators have delayed a vote on their new health care bill after dissenting party members left them short of votes. Experts predict the bill would cause millions of Americans to lose their health insurance.
US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday the Republican party's leadership was "still working toward getting at least 50 people in a comfortable place," referring to the missing support from senators needed to pass a health care overhaul promised by President Donald Trump.
Even with a two-seat majority in the Senate, McConnell conceded he had struggled to get enough Republicans to back the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017. But he insisted the proposed law was far from dead.
The bill is now set to go to a vote after the July 4 public holiday in the US.
The decision is a significant embarrassment for Trump, who has made the repeal of the Affordable Care Act - popularly known as Obamacare and the flagship health care policy of his predecessor Barack Obama - a central plank of his election campaign and first months in office.
Republican lawmakers are seeking to introduce a replacement that will impose cuts to the program.
Some conservative Republicans don't believe the reforms go far enough, while several moderate Republicans have pulled their support, after a forecast from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office suggested the bill would leave 22 million fewer people insured by 2026, compared to the current law.
The new reforms would also cut some currently mandated benefits, including maternity care and certain hospital services.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (Democrat) said the bill is fundamentally flawed and overlooks average working people in favor of wealthy Americans.
Among those Republican senators who said they could not support the bill in its current form were Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowsi of Alaska.
US President Donald Trump said later Tuesday that if the health care bill fails to pass in the Senate, "it's going to be something that we're not going to like," adding that there was still "a chance to do something very, very important for the public."
President summons lawmakers
Trump summoned all 52 Republican senators to the White House on Tuesday in an attempt to shore up support.
Following their talks, McConnell said "I think everyone around the table is interested in getting to yes," adding that "we've got a really good chance of getting there. It will just take a little bit longer."
mm/gsw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)