US Senate Republicans have aborted their latest plan to dismantle Obamacare, they said Tuesday, after it became clear President Donald Trump's party did not have enough support to pass the measure.
Grim-faced lawmakers, who 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 health care 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 could afford just two defectors in the 100-member chamber. But three, including most recently Senator Susan Collins, have declared their opposition.
The party, still searching for a first major legislative victory under the Trump administration, will now turn to another Trump priority: tax reform.
Despite the latest collapse, Senator Lindsey Graham insisted the effort to sink Obamacare was still alive and kicking.
"We're coming back to this after taxes," Graham said. "We're going to get there."
But Democrats immediately claimed victory, with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer saying that 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.