Sen. John McCain’s return to work after surgery won’t be enough to revive the ailing GOP health care bill, Sen. Charles Schumer said Sunday.
McCain, 80, underwent surgery at the Mayo Clinic on Friday to remove a blood clot above his left eye.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Saturday announced that he was postponing the highly anticipated vote to gut Obamacare due to the Arizona Republican’s absence, which is expected to last at least a week.
“Time is not the problem in the present health care bill,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters. “The problem is the substance. It slashes Medicaid, which has become something that helps middle class New Yorkers … and millions of Americans.”
In another setback for senators who want to know how many people will lose their insurance, the Congressional Budget Office won’t be releasing its analysis of the latest bill on Monday — as had been expected.
The Senate Budget Office said the report would be postponed, but it did not give an explanation for the delay.
Earlier, the budget office concluded a previous Senate proposal would leave 22 million people without health insurance by 2026.
The latest Senate bill, proposed Thursday, was on life support even before McCain’s underwent surgery. The GOP holds a 52-48 majority in the Senate, meaning it can only spare two votes.
Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky are against it, and others have expressed concern.
“There are about eight to 10 Republican senators who have serious concerns about this bill. And so at the end of the day, I don’t know whether it will pass,” said Collins, a moderate who is against the steep Medicaid cuts.
The delay will also give more time for opponents to mobilize and lobby against the bill.
“The longer the bill’s out there, the more conservative Republicans are going to discover that it’s not repeal,” said Paul, who is against the legislation because it fails to fully repeal Obamacare, which is formally known as the Affordable Care Act.
McConnell rejiggered the legislation in an effort to convince more of his GOP colleagues to get on board.
The new measure would allow insurers to sell minimal coverage policies at a cheap rate. That move was aimed at placating conservatives.
But health care advocates cautioned that elderly and sick people would sign up for the more robust plans while healthy consumers would likely buy the cheaper policies. In an effort to address that possibility, Republican officials earmarked tens of billions to reduce expected hiked premiums.
Also, the updated bill would lift several key consumer protections, allowing insurance companies to discriminate against customers based on their prior health ailments.
The revamped legislation also would change funding formulas to boost federal money for Louisiana and Alaska, the bases of four GOP senators who are on the fence on the measure.
Despite strong lobbying from the Trump administration, the votes weren’t there and McConnell had to delay consideration of the measure. A vote was tabled last month due to lack of support.
Democrats and most of the country’s major medical groups and insurers are strenuously against the bill.
“This bill should be scrapped because it hurts middle class Americans too much at the same time that it gives tax breaks to the wealthy,” Schumer said. “Instead, have Democrats and Republicans sit down and work together on improving Obamacare … specifically making premiums lower and health care better.”
Despite the latest holdup, the Senate’s No. 2 GOP leader, John Cornyn of Texas, vowed to bring the legislation to a vote as soon as McCain recovers.
“I believe as soon as we have a full contingent of senators, that we’ll have that vote,” Cornyn said.
As for McCain, doctors removed a nearly 2-inch clot. His health was questioned after he asked former FBI director James Comey a series of bizarre questions during a hearing last month.
McCain dismissed concerns, saying he had stayed up late the night before watching an Arizona Diamondbacks game.
“(He) is a dear friend of mine,” Schumer said of McCain. “He is one of my best friends in the Senate and he is one of the most effective, strongest senators.
“I am praying for his speedy, speedy recovery,” he added, “regardless of its effects on politics one way or the other.”
With News Wire Services
With Sarah Gabrielli