After delay, Senate Republicans struggle not to let healthcare stall

Following a delay in Senate Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace ObamaCare, lawmakers are struggling to move forward with viable legislation that can pass the upper chamber.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump: If there's no wall, there's no DACA fix Schumer: Democrats 'cut the best deal we could' Dems sour on shutdown tactics MORE (R-Ky.) late Saturday was forced to delay an expected vote this week on the legislation while Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainUS sends A-10 squadron to Afghanistan for first time in three years McCain: ‘All of us share responsibility’ for government shutdown GOP strategist: Shutdown is on Trump and GOP MORE (R-Ariz.) recovers from surgery.

Pessimism peppered appearances by senators on this week’s Sunday show circuit, including the two senators who last week came out against the motion to proceed on the bill. 

“At the end of the day, I don’t know whether it will pass,” Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSchumer warns McConnell against immigration ‘breach of trust’ Senate moderates see influence grow after shutdown fight Overnight Health Care: Congress funds children's health program after four-month delay | PhRMA ups lobbying in Trump's first year | Collins 'optimistic' ObamaCare fixes will pass MORE (R-Maine), one of the “no” votes, told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

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The Maine lawmaker said while she has not heard from President Trump personally in recent weeks to discuss healthcare, she has heard from White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.

The White House on Sunday declined to say whether Trump has hit the phone to press senators over healthcare. 

“The president has been monitoring what’s going on with healthcare and he and his staff have been involved with what’s going on in the Senate,” White House spokesperson Helen Aguirre Ferré said, according to pool reports.

While the Senate struggles to get the bill onto the floor, the White House is pivoting to the president's new "Made in America" messaging campaign.

“We wish Sen. McCain a speedy recovery,” Ferré said.

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOvernight Regulation: Trump’s former chemical safety nominee leaving EPA | Senate confirms Powell as Fed chair | NTSB 'gathering information' on Tesla crash Overnight Finance: Senate confirms Powell as Fed chair | Mulvaney declares 'new mission' for consumer bureau | Trump says solar tariffs will boost jobs Senate confirms Jerome Powell as Fed chairman MORE (R-Ky.), another “no” vote, said he does not think Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has the votes to pass the bill. 

Paul, an outspoken opponent of the legislation who has argued that the new healthcare plan does not repeal enough provisions within ObamaCare, said the current bill includes components that Republicans have never before supported.

"This bill keeps most of the ObamaCare taxes, keeps most of the regulations, keeps most of the subsidies," Paul told “Fox News Sunday.” 

"And creates something that Republicans have never been for, and that's a giant insurance bailout superfund," he continued.

In another interview, Paul said other conservative lawmakers will soon discover that the current bill does not repeal enough of ObamaCare. 

"I think the longer the bill's out there, the more conservative Republicans are going to discover that it's not repeal," Paul told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” "And the more that everybody's going to discover that it keeps the fundamental flaw of ObamaCare."

The conflicting opposition by Paul and Collins represents the delicate balance Republican leadership has to strike between conservatives looking for a stronger repeal and centrists concerned about cuts to Medicaid.

Collins in particular has repeatedly voiced concerns over cuts to the Medicaid program under the new health plan.

“But there are other problems with the bill as well. It could lead to insurance plans that really are barely insurance at all,” Collins told ABC’s “This Week.”  

“It would cause premiums to increase for some very vulnerable individuals, including those with pre-existing conditions, depending on what states decide to do.”

Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynSenate faces difficult path to immigration deal Emboldened conservatives press Ryan to bring hard-right immigration bill to floor Gorsuch has dinner at GOP senator’s home MORE (R-Texas) in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” said the healthcare debate will be an “open process” with both Republicans and Democrats.

“This is going to be an open process where anybody on the Democratic side or the Republican side can offer an amendment and it will get a vote,” Cornyn, a member of leadership, told host Chuck Todd. 

But Cornyn signaled that leadership could alter its course should the current version of the bill fail to pass. 

“But at some point, if Democrats won’t participate in the process, then we’re going to have to come up with a different plan,” he said.

Republican leadership has until this point signaled singleminded determination to pass its healthcare legislation despite zero Democrat support.