Senate Delays Vote On Troubled Health Care Bill

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Despite an aggressive push from majority leader Mitch McConnell, the Senate will delay the health care bill vote until after the July 4 congressional recess, according to multiple reports on Tuesday. The delay means that Republican senators will have to return to their districts for the Independence Day break carrying one of the most hyper-charged, controversial bills in recent memory around their necks.

This was, in all likelihood, exactly the scenario McConnell had hoped to avoid. As it stands now, the Senate's version of the Obamacare replacement bill ― called the Better Care Reconciliation Act ― is one of the most deeply unpopular pieces of legislation to ever get this close to passage. Multiple polls have found its support at less than 20 percent of the American public, with even a majority of Republicans taking a dim view ― almost unheard-of figures in the recent, hyper-polarized political landscape.

In other words, Republican senators may end up facing unprecedented public pressure over the course of next week's recess, now that the quick-strike strategy for the bill's passage has some up short. By no means does this mean it won't ultimately be passed and become law, however. All it clearly indicates is that McConnell and the Republican leadership weren't confident they'd have the votes by the end of this week.

This all sets up yet another round of negotiations and maneuvers after the July 4 recess is over. The Senate won't reconvene until July 10, giving progressives and Democrats a solid week to try to halt the bill's momentum. The BCRA was seemingly hurt by Monday's score from the Congressional Budget Office, which concluded it's passage would leave at least 22 million fewer Americans with health insurance in 2026 than would have it if Obamacare remained in place.

The GOP isn't only fending off criticism from the opposition, either. No less than the president of the United States reportedly called the House version of the bill "mean" in a closed-door meeting with Republicans ― a fact he (potentially inadvertently) confirmed while commenting on former president Barack Obama also calling it mean. It was those comments which led South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham to offer up some cautionary advice to his Republican colleagues, according to The Hill:

Here's what I would tell any senator: If you're counting on the president to have your back, you need to watch it. If you're looking for political cover from the White House, I'm not sure they're going to give it to you.

From the perspective of progressive advocacy groups and conservative politicos, this surely won't be the end of the ongoing battle over American health care. But as of Tuesday afternoon, the still-frenetic pace of the GOP's Obamacare repeal effort has officially slowed down, if only by at least one week.