Cameron Joseph contributed reporting.
Emerging from a closed-door lunch meeting, Republican senators told reporters that leadership had decided to call off a vote this week on a bill to repeal much of the Affordable Care Act and convert Medicaid into a shrinking block grant.
“I don’t believe there is going to be a vote,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said with a smile, declining to reveal how she would have voted on the controversial bill, but adding: “There’s still a lot of work to do on health care.”
Other Republican members were less zen about the news that they would once again fail to fulfill their signature campaign promise to nuke Obamacare.
“I’m apoplectic,” Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) told TPM. “I’m kind of disgusted that after 9 months the self-interest is still outweighing the national interest in our caucus in some ways. This should not have happened. This did not have to happen.”
Minutes later, the bill’s authors made the official announcement.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), flanked by Senate GOP leaders, promised the measure would pass eventually, but acknowledged it won’t happen by the Sept. 30 deadline.
“We’re on the path to pass Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson. It’s not a question of if, but when,” he insisted.
In a nod to his friend Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who excoriated the rushed, secretive, and partisan process used to create and promote the bill, Graham added: “With a process that gives more intention and time we will repeal Obamacare with a block grant.”
Graham’s co-author, a visibly downcast Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), then confirmed to reporters: “We don’t have the votes.”
Graham and Cassidy, who pushed for a vote on his bill with only one hearing and no Democratic co-sponsors, called for both sides to reach across the aisle going forward.
“Let’s engage each other and find a bipartisan path forward,” he said.
Despite several lawmakers insisting that the health care fight is not, and never is, over, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters that the Senate will now turn its attention to its “twin priority of reforming the tax code.”
Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.