WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The latest version of U.S. Senate Republicans' legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would leave 22 million Americans without health insurance coverage by 2026, the U.S. Congressional Budget Office said on Thursday.
The analysis could complicate matters for the divided Republicans, who shelved the bill on Monday after four senators said they could not support it. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump scolded Republican senators and told them they had to deliver on a seven-year campaign promise to get rid of Obamacare and replace it with a new plan.
After news late Wednesday that Senator John McCain has aggressive brain cancer, Republicans' fight for votes with a narrow 52-48 majority becomes even more difficult.The Arizona Republican, known for his feisty independence, tweeted "unfortunately for my sparring partners in Congress, I'll be back soon, so stand-by!"
Now Senate leadership, working with the White House, must decide whether to revive the repeal and replace bill after a moderate and three conservatives said they could not support it.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had planned to hold a straight repeal vote next week, but several Republican senators have already said they oppose that approach.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said on Wednesday that 32 million more Americans would lose their insurance coverage by 2026 with a straight repeal, far more than the more than 20 million who have become insured under Obamacare.
McConnell revealed little of his next steps but said Republicans were not giving up on their efforts to overhaul Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act.
"Dealing with this issue is what's right for the country," he said on the Senate floor on Thursday. "The fight to move beyond the status quo of Obamacare was certainly never going to be easy. But we've come a long way, and I look forward to continuing our work together to finally bring relief."
The dramatic week at Congress and in the White House was taking its toll.
Senator Bob Corker said he was concerned that the Senate healthcare debate was becoming incoherent.
"I'm getting a little anxious that it's starting to feel like a bazaar," he said outside the Senate. "This is starting to feel incoherent."
Democrats, who stand in united opposition to the Republican efforts and reveled in this week's deadlock, told Republicans to abandon their healthcare efforts as they appeared no closer to reconciling policy differences after a late-night meeting on Wednesday.
"It's time for Congress to pivot away from the bills that are going nowhere," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Additional reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb; Writing by Mary Milliken; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Jonathan Oatis