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Two more Republican senators said Monday they will oppose the current Republican health-care bill — enough to doom its passage, for now.
Following the announcement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell abruptly called for a vote to repeal Obamacare without an immediate replacement as the replacement effort seemed to collapse.
In messages posted to Twitter, Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Ks., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, became the third and fourth GOP senators to say they would not support their party's Obamacare replacement plan as written. They said they would not even back a motion to proceed — a procedural vote that would start debate on the bill.
The GOP, which holds 52 seats in the Senate, had already seen two defections and could not afford a third.
Their opposition marks just the latest setback to the GOP's effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, a Republican campaign promise for most of the last decade that has stalled multiple times this year amid party divisions. The GOP chose to address the health-care overhaul before it took on tax reform, another key campaign plank, and every setback is seen as delaying the party's broader agenda.
Following the senators' announcement, President Donald Trump urged Republican lawmakers to repeal Obamacare first, and then come up with a solution for replacing it. It is unclear if the GOP has the votes to repeal the law without an immediate replacement, as it risks destabilizing insurance markets.
Before Trump's tweet, a White House official said in a statement that "inaction is not an option. We look forward to Congress continuing to work toward a bill the President can sign to end the Obamacare nightmare and restore quality care at affordable prices."
McConnell then called for a vote on a bill to repeal Obamacare without an immediate replacement.
"Regretfully, it's now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful," McConnell said in a statement. "So, in the coming days, the Senate will vote to take up the House bill with the first amendment in order being what a majority of the Senate has already supported in 2015 and that was vetoed by then-President Obama: a repeal of Obamacare with a two-year delay to provide for a stable transition period to a patient-centered health care system that gives Americans access to quality, affordable care."
Senate Republicans released a revised Obamacare replacement bill last week, hoping to win over both conservative and moderate holdouts who opposed an earlier version of the plan. Two GOP senators — Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan Collins of Maine — almost immediately opposed it, while several others expressed skepticism.
The conservative Lee previously argued that the Senate bill did not go far enough to a full repeal of Obamacare. In his statement announcing opposition Monday, Lee said that he made his decision after studying the Consumer Freedom Amendment, a provision championed by conservative Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., that allows insurers to offer skinnier plans with fewer benefits as long as they offer more robust Obamacare-compliant plans.
"In addition to not repealing all of the Obamacare taxes, [the bill] doesn't go far enough in lowering premiums for middle class families; nor does it create enough free space from the most costly Obamacare regulations," he said.
Moran said Monday that the bill "fails to repeal the Affordable Care Act or address health care's rising costs." He also criticized what he called Republicans' "closed-door process" that led to the plan.
"We must now start fresh with an open legislative process to develop innovative solutions that provide greater personal choice, protections for pre-existing conditions, increased access and lower overall costs for Kansans," he said in a statement.
The GOP already had to delay its plan to vote on a motion to proceed this week as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., recovers from a surgery to remove a blood clot above his eye.
Some senators, like Collins, have previously suggested that the GOP should push for a bipartisan plan to fix Obamacare's flaws and address the issues of rising premiums and insurers leaving the individual market in some states.