The top U.S. Senate Republican said on Tuesday he would unveil a revised version of major health care legislation sought by President Donald Trump on Thursday and planned for a vote next week, but divisions within the party left its prospects unclear.
With his reputation as a master strategist on the line, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell laid out a timetable for Senate consideration of legislation that would fulfill the Republican president's campaign promise to dismantle the Obamacare law. But it remains to be seen whether he can satisfy moderates and hard-line conservatives in his party who have voiced opposition.
McConnell also pushed back the Senate's planned August recess by two weeks to allow senators more time to tackle the measure that would repeal key parts of the Obamacare law as well as pursue other legislative priorities.
McConnell said the plan was to vote on the health care bill next week, and said he hoped to have a fresh analysis of the bill from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office at the start of the week. He did not reveal any of the planned changes to the current legislation that has stalled in the Senate.
"We're going to do health care next week," McConnell told reporters.
Senator John Thune, a member of the Senate Republican leadership, indicated that Senate leaders remain uncertain over whether the revised bill can attract the 50 votes needed to pass the bill in a chamber the Republicans control 52-48.
"Every time you move, you kind of move the dial one direction, you maybe add some new members, but maybe you lose a couple over here. And I think right now we're just trying to find the sweet spot," Thune said.
In addition to legislation to dismantle the 2010 Affordable Care Act, dubbed Obamacare, the recess postponement will allow more time to approve nominees to government posts and tend to other pressing matters including a defense spending authorization bill, McConnell said.
Opposition by Democrats, some Republicans
Lawmakers returned to Washington on Monday following a 10-day holiday recess with Republican senators still at odds over the health care legislation and the Republican president warning Congress not to go on recess without passing the bill.
The current version of the Senate Republican bill would phase out the Obamacare expansion of Medicaid health insurance for the poor and disabled, sharply cut federal Medicaid spending beginning in 2025, repeal most of Obamacare's taxes, end a penalty on Americans who do not obtain insurance and overhaul Obamacare's subsidies to help people buy insurance with tax credits.
The House of Representatives passed its own version in May.
Democrats are united in opposition to the bill and at least 10 Republicans have said they oppose it as well. More have expressed concerns about the legislation or are undecided.
Moderate senators are uneasy about the millions of people forecast to lose their medical insurance under the legislation and hard-line conservatives say it leaves too much of Obamacare intact.
Trump made repealing and replacing Obamacare a top campaign promise last year. Republicans have sought for seven years to gut the law, Democratic former President Barack Obama's signature legislative achievement, which they describe as a costly government overreach.
Democrats call the Republican legislation a giveaway to the rich that would hurt the most vulnerable Americans.
Republicans since January have controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress but have struggled to find a health care plan that unites the party.
For Trump, the health care overhaul marks his first major legislative initiative. Republican leaders had initially hoped to vote on legislation to roll back Obamacare before last week's recess, but postponed the planned vote once it became clear the bill did not have enough support for passage.