WASHINGTON, U.S. - The U.S. Senate has said that it is delaying its consideration of healthcare legislation while Arizona Republican Senator John McCain recuperates from surgery.
Making the announcement late on Saturday, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement, "While John is recovering, the Senate will continue our work on legislative items and nominations, and will defer consideration of the Better Care Act.”
The announcement by McConnell came after McCain's office said he would remain in Arizona next week following a procedure to remove a 2-inch (5-cm) blood clot from above his left eye, and would not be in the Senate next week.
McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, has expressed concern about the healthcare bill but has not revealed how he would vote.
The 2008 Republican presidential nominee, McCain’s office said that he was resting comfortably at home in good condition after Friday's operation.
McConnell added, “There are few people tougher than my friend John McCain, and I know he’ll be back with us soon.”
McCain's absence has now cast doubt on whether the Senate would be able to pass the legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare, one of Trump’s top campaign promises and his key agendas during his first 100 days of presidency.
McConnell needs 50 ‘yes’ votes for passage in a chamber the Republicans control by a 52-48 margin.
So far, two Republican senators, Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), have already declared that they would oppose a procedural vote to advance to the new Senate GOP healthcare legislation, which was unveiled this past week.
Without McCain, Senate Republicans would not have the 50 votes necessary to advance the legislation, depriving Republicans of a key vote.
Experts believe the delay in the schedule is a problem for McConnell, as opponents of the legislation could use the extra time to pressure wavering GOP centrists to vote against it.
This is the second time McConnell has had to delay the Senate consideration of ObamaCare repeal.
Late in June, work was postponed after it became clear McConnell lacked the support to carry the bill through the Senate.
This prompted a rewriting of the legislation, which won over a key conservative, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
Further, a number of centrist Republicans remain on the fence as McConnell awaits a Congressional Budget Office analysis and score of the legislation, expected on Monday.