A planned vote on the Senate healthcare bill has been delayed at least a week by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after Sen. John McCain underwent surgery Saturday and told leaders he would remain in Arizona for the week to recuperate.
Two GOP lawmakers — Sens. Rand Paul and Susan Collins — have already publicly said they would not support the bill, named the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA).
Paul and Collins’ opposition combined with McCain’s absence leaves McConnell short of the 50 votes needed to pass the bill.
With experts saying McCain’s recovery time could stretch longer than one week, it’s unclear when the BCRA will make it to the Senate floor — if at all.
Whether or not the delay will be a good or bad thing for the bill is debatable.
On the one hand, it gives opponents of the BCRA more time to pressure moderate senators over the bill’s Medicaid cuts and projected coverage losses. Given the razor’s edge the bill sits on, if a flood of negative polls or analysis over the next week sways even a single undecided senator, the bill could be derailed.
Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate, told ABC’s This Week on Sunday that there are “eight to 10” Republican members with “deep concerns.”
No one wants to be the deciding vote to kill a bill, but if one member does publicly become the deciding vote, others may follow.
Also complicating factors is Sen. Ron Johnson. Johnson originally came out against the BCRA for not being conservative enough, but said after the release of the updated bill that he was on board. Over the weekend, however, Johnson told the Green Bay Press-Gazette in his home state of Wisconsin that he was back to undecided on the bill due to reports that McConnell told moderate members that the deep cuts to Medicaid that are in the bill would never go into effect.
Another big issue for lawmakers on the fence is the release of the Congressional Budget Office’s score for the updated BCRA. The original score, which showed that 22 million more Americans would be without health insurance in 2026 under the BCRA compared to the current system, was a key point of contention for centrist Republicans who opposed the first iteration of the healthcare bill.
The new score was originally set to be released on Monday, but, given the delay for the vote, it will also be pushed back. It’s unclear when it will be released now, but reports suggest it could be as late as next week.
On the other hand, no senator has come out as the key third “no” vote that would doom the bill and, according to Axios’ Jonathan Swan, The White House and McConnell view each day without another public defector as a “victory.”
It also gives more time for McConnell, who is known as an adept dealmaker, to work with individual senators to address their issues or create amendments to placate their particular concerns. Already, the bill includes multiple carve outs for certain states or issues particular senators care about.