John McCain's recovery from surgery just doomed the US healthcare bill for now

John McCain. Picture: Getty Images

NEW YORK CITY — The US Senate’s vote to proceed to debate on Republicans’ healthcare bill will be delayed due to Sen. John McCain’s health issues, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement.

McCain’s office announced he will be recovering from surgery next week in Arizona after having a blood clot removed from above his left eye.

“While John is recovering, the Senate will continue our work on legislative items and nominations, and will defer consideration of the Better Care Act,” McConnell said.

The announcement had immediately thrown into question the fate of Senate Republicans’ Obamacare repeal vote.

Lawmakers had said they hoped to hold a procedural vote next week to begin debate on the contentious healthcare bill, but McCain’s absence would have complicated that plan.

In order to proceed, Republicans need 50 votes out of their 52-member Senate majority, with Vice President Mike Pence expected to break the tie.

Two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky, have already said they will not vote to proceed, making McCain’s “yes” vote essential.

Currently, there is a disagreement between moderates and conservatives over the bill. Moderates, like Collins, believe the cuts to Medicaid are too deep. While conservatives, like Paul, believe the bill does not go far enough in its repeal of Obamacare’s regulations.

Collins has said she will not vote for a key procedural vote to bring the bill to the floor. Paul also said he will not vote for a procedural manoeuvre, called a motion to proceed.

This is the second time the bill, named the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), has been delayed. The first time was due to a lack of support for the bill and prompted the rewrites that were released Thursday.

McCain was expected to vote for the BCRA, despite making comments expressing concerns about various aspects of the bill.

In a statement on Friday, McCain criticised the quick process used for the BCRA, but said he would introduce amendments to assist people in Arizona.

“If we are not able to reach a consensus, the Senate should return to regular order, hold hearings and receive input from senators of both parties, and produce a bill that finally provides Americans with access to affordable and quality health care,” he said.

McCain’s office said in a statement Saturday he is in “good spirits and recovering comfortably at home with his family. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Arizona described the procedure as “minimally invasive” and said it went “very well.”

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