Senate Republicans, short of votes, abandoned their latest and possibly final attempt to kill the healthcare law, just ahead of a critical end-of-the-week deadline.
US Senate Republicans abandoned their latest plan to dismantle Obamacare on Tuesday when it became clear that President Donald Trump's party did not have the votes, assuring the 2010 health reforms would survive for the foreseeable future.
Grim-faced lawmakers, who had hoped to hold the vote this week, made the announcement shortly after a Republican luncheon in which senators discussed the impasse, and possible future paths forward for their efforts to repeal and replace Barack Obama's landmark 2010 health care reforms.
"We've made the decision that since we don't have the votes we will postpone that vote," Senator Bill Cassidy, one of the bill's main authors, told reporters.
Republicans had scrambled to pass healthcare reform before a September 30 deadline, using special rules that would have allowed them to avoid a Democratic filibuster and pass the bill with a simple majority.
Republicans, who hold 52 seats in the 100-member chamber, could afford just two defectors. But three, including most recently Senator Susan Collins, have declared their opposition.
"Am I disappointed? Absolutely," Cassidy said.
The collapse, yet again, of an effort to fulfill one of Trump's primary campaign pledges is sure to be an embarrassment to the White House, which has seen several Obamacare repeal and replace bills crash and burn this year.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the party, still searching for a first major legislative victory under the Trump administration, will now turn to another Trump priority.
"Where we go from here is tax reform," he said.
Despite the latest collapse, Senator Lindsey Graham insisted the effort to sink Obamacare – and fulfill a seven-year Republican promise – was alive and kicking.
"We're coming back to this after taxes," Graham said.
"There's plenty of fight left in us."
But Democrats immediately claimed victory, with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer saying with the failure of the Graham-Cassidy bill, "the health care of millions has been protected and preserved."
The Republican plan had aimed to replace the Affordable Care Act with a system of block grants to states.
It would make sweeping changes and cuts to Medicaid, with experts projecting a staggering $1 trillion plus in cuts between 2020 and 2036 to the federal health program for the poor and the disabled, which has been expanded under Obamacare.
Compounding the problem for the bill, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released a preliminary analysis of the new legislation Monday, and projected that it would leave "millions fewer people" with comprehensive health insurance.