Obamacare repeal bill plunges into new uncertainty

P1707

Senate Republicans have no timetable for a vote with John McCain recovering from surgery. But they might not be able to pass a bill even if he was in Washington.

Republicans’ long-held plans to repeal Obamacare are again in serious doubt, with no clear timetable for a Senate vote following the surprise news that John McCain will be out as he recovers from surgery.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) shelved a vote planned for this week following the disclosure of McCain’s procedure, which leaves the GOP clearly short of support to advance the bill. McConnell’s office could give no new schedule for the vote, and most on Capitol Hill are waiting for a pathology report to assess how long it will be before McCain returns after undergoing surgery to remove a blood clot above his eye.

Privately, Republicans said the delay could be as little as a week as McCain recovers in Arizona, though others worried it could stretch for several weeks and jeopardize the entire repeal effort. Clouding the timetable further, a new Congressional Budget Office estimate for the bill that was expected on Monday has also been delayed, Republicans said. It could come as early as Tuesday.

Whether the bill would advance even if McCain were in Washington is another question altogether, as the Arizona senator is one of more than half a dozen undecided Republicans, any one of whom could tank the bill.

The two GOP senators who publicly oppose the current draft of the legislation, conservative Rand Paul of Kentucky and centrist Susan Collins of Maine, appeared on several Sunday morning news shows to rain on the bill’s prospects. Both sounded doubtful that the bill would have advanced this week on a procedural vote even with McCain present.

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