McCain surgery means another delay for Senate's healthcare bill

Sen. John McCain will be recovering in Arizona this week after undergoing surgery to remove a blood clot above his left eye. (Gage Skidmore/CC BY-SA 2.0)(Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Senate Republicans’ healthcare overhaul bill has hit another stumbling block—this time, in the form of a blood clot above Sen. John McCain’s eye.

The Arizona Republican underwent surgery on Friday to remove the clot, his office announced this weekend, and will be recovering in his home state this week. And since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has no votes to spare in his bid to pass his healthcare bill, McCain’s surgery means the GOP’s push to pass it must be put on hold.

McConnell confirmed the delay via Twitter on Saturday, saying: “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 Congressional Budget Office was expected to release a score of the revised bill on Monday, but the agency’s website now indicates that it does not plan to release any analyses this week.  

This is the second time McConnell has had to delay voting on his bill; the first occurred in late June when it became clear that he would not have enough votes to pass the measure, which repeals and replaces the Affordable Care Act.

The revised version of the bill released last week is largely aimed at drawing in more conservative GOP senators, as it preserves the original bill’s deep cuts to Medicaid and adds in a provision allowing insurers to sell bare-bones individual market plans.

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Yet such changes do little to make the bill a better sell to moderates, including Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who along with Kentucky conservative Rand Paul, is a definite no. Collins added that eight to 10 Republicans have “serious concerns about this bill,” according to the Associated Press.

One of the biggest hurdles is winning over GOP senators whose Republican governors are opposed to the measure, like Dean Heller of Nevada. Thus, the White House launched an aggressive bid to defend the bill to those governors, beginning with a presentation from Vice President Mike Pence during the National Governors Association Summer Meeting on Friday, The Washington Post reports.

Yet not all governors appeared to be convinced—including the one who has Heller’s ear.

“I’m no different than I was,” Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval said after a meeting with the Trump administration’s two top health officials on Saturday, per another article from the Post. Sandoval, whose main concern is the bill’s Medicaid cuts, said he would come to a final decision early this week.