WASHINGTON – As divisions between the party’s two main ideological camps widened Tuesday, Republicans were scrambling to contain the political fallout from the collapse of a months-long effort to rewrite former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic accomplishment.

President Trump predicted Tuesday that Republicans would wait for the federal insurance market to collapse and then work to broker a deal to rewrite the nation’s landmark health-care law, while Senate leaders pressed ahead with a plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act without an immediate replacement.

But it quickly became apparent that Republican leaders, who were caught off guard by defections of their members Monday night, lacked the votes to abolish parts of the 2010 law outright. Three centrist Republican senators – Susan Collins of Maine, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – said they would oppose any vote to proceed with an immediate repeal of the law.

“I did not come to Washington to hurt people,” Capito said on Twitter.

Collins said that she had urged Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, to hold hearings in an attempt to fashion a legislative fix for the ACA, while leaving it in effect in the meantime.

“I do not think that it’s going to be constructive to repeal a law that at this point is so interwoven within our health care system and then hope that over the next two years we will come up with some kind of replacement,” Collins said in a statement Tuesday morning. “I think that would create great anxiety for individuals who rely on the ACA.


“I believe it would cause the insurance markets to go into turmoil. And I don’t think it is the right way to proceed.”

Maine independent Angus King was among a handful of senators who were joined by 11 Republican and Democratic governors in calling on congressional leaders to launch a bipartisan process to revamp the nation’s health care system.

“The events of the last couple of days around here with regard to health care have given us a real opportunity to do something together on a bipartisan basis – to improve the present health care delivery system in this country,” he said in a statement.

He suggested starting with lowering the cost of prescription drugs to make health care more affordable.

“What I hope we can do is put aside the ideology, put aside ‘you know, we got to check a box on repealing or replacing,’ and let’s talk about how we can work together to improve the health care system, make it more accessible, and more cost effective – or another way to say that is – less expensive for the American people,” he said.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, said Tuesday that lawmakers need to get a more detailed analysis of what has caused consumers’ premiums to rise and what could make insurance more affordable.


“We didn’t have the courage to lay out exactly what caused premiums to increase,” Johnson said, noting that senators didn’t even have an up-to-date budget analysis of the latest health care proposal. “It’s an insane process. If you don’t have information, how can you even have a legitimate discussion and debate.”

The 11 governors – a group that included Republicans Charles D. Baker of Massachusetts, Larry Hogan of Maryland, John Kasich of Ohio, Brian Sandoval of Nevada and Phil Scott of Vermont – said they “stand ready to work with lawmakers in an open, bipartisan way to provide better insurance for all Americans.”

But these appeals did little to sway Trump, who issued a tweet that blamed the demise of a plan to rewrite the ACA on Democrats “and a few Republicans.”


Speaking to reporters in the Roosevelt Room on Tuesday afternoon, Trump said he was “disappointed” in the demise of the Senate bill and viewed the cratering of the nation’s individual insurance market as the best way to advance his goals.

Now his plan is to “let Obamacare fail; it will be a lot easier,” he said. “And I think we’re probably in that position where we’ll just let Obamacare fail.”


“We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it,” the president said. “I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We’ll let Obamacare fail, and then the Democrats are going to come to us.”

Trump’s latest comments intensified the political uncertainty on Capitol Hill, where Republican leaders were debating what to do next, and they raised anxiety among insurers that must commit to staying on the federal health exchange within a matter of weeks.

Republicans are reeling after two more Republican senators declared their opposition Monday to the party’s plan to overhaul the nation’s health care system, likely ending their quest to make good on a Republican promise that has defined the party for nearly a decade and has been one of Trump’s top priorities.

In many ways, the leadership plan did not go far enough for those on the right, but was too radical for Republican centrists. It scaled back some key ACA requirements and made deep cuts over time in Medicaid, but preserved popular provisions of the law such as a ban on denying coverage to consumers with costly medical conditions.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he was “very concerned” by the overall situation and he offered a blunt assessment of why Senate Republicans fell short on their bill.

“We are so evenly divided and we’ve got to have every Republican to make things work and we didn’t have every Republican,” he said.



Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, showed no signs of abandoning his push for a single-party solution, opening the Senate on Tuesday morning touting his latest plan – to vote on a pure repeal, with a two-year delay, by taking up the House’s health-care bill.

But in a sign of the extent to which Senate leaders have lost control of the process, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas – whose job is to count votes – said he had “no idea” that Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, was joining Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, in defecting Monday night.

Cornyn learned about it that night “a little after 8 o’clock,” he said, after he and six other Republican senators dined with Trump at the White House.

As Republicans tried to regroup, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-New York, renewed his calls for the majority to work with Democrats to shore up the health insurance system.

“It should be crystal clear to everyone on the other side of the aisle that the core of the bill is unworkable. It’s time to move on. It’s time to start over,” he said. “Rather than repeating this same, failed partisan process again, Republicans should work with Democrats on a bill that lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the insurance markets and improves our health-care system.”


“Now that their one-party effort has largely failed, we hope they will change their tune,” he said, noting that some Republicans have been calling for bipartisan talks.

Schumer quoted Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who said Monday night that “Congress must return to regular order” and rewrite the health-care legislation with input from both parties.

“The door to bipartisanship is open now,” Schumer said. “Republicans only need to walk through it.”

As Schumer spoke on the Senate floor, Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-West Virginia, one of the few in the chamber who has tried to be a bipartisan broker, was placing calls to fellow senators who, like him, are former governors – a total of 11 senators including King, Alexander, John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, and Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire. Aides said Manchin was presenting nothing specific yet to his colleagues, just a plea to “sit down and start bipartisan talking.”


But Vice President Mike Pence, speaking at the National Retail Federation’s annual Retail Advocates Summit, challenged Congress to “step up” and repeal the current law so that lawmakers can “work on a new health-care plan that will start with a clean slate.”


And McConnell declared on the Senate floor, “This doesn’t have to be the end of the story.”

McConnell said the Senate would next take up “a repeal of Obamacare combined with a stable two-year transition period.” He said that President Barack Obama had vetoed such legislation before, but that “President Trump will sign it now.”

The Senate leader also acknowledged that his party has suffered a political setback.

“I regret that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failures of Obamacare will not be successful,” he said. “We will now try a different way to bring the American people relief from Obamacare.”

The confusion over next steps highlights the predicament now faced by Republicans, who have made rallying cries against Obama’s 2010 health-care law a pillar of the party’s identity. They may be forced to grapple with the law’s shift from a perennial Republican target to an accepted, even popular, provider of services and funding in many states, which could make further repeal revivals difficult.

Meanwhile, Trump and other Republicans will confront a Republican base that, despite fervent support for the president, still seeks a smaller federal government and fewer regulations.

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