The Senate on Wednesday rejected a proposal to repeal much of the Affordable Medical Services Act and envisioned giving legislators two years to develop a surrogate measure.
In two separate ballots in less than 24 hours, lawmakers rejected different approaches to amending the 2010 law known as Obamacare. But many Republicans have said they are willing to approve a narrower measure that rejects the mandate to buy health insurance.
Republican leaders have emphasized a way the Senate can start negotiations with the House, and perhaps the only way they can maintain an initiative launched seven years ago to dismantle Obamacare.
Several lawmakers acknowledged Wednesday that they were not convinced by the proposal, but suggested they still be able to back it up.
“It’s a way to discuss it in conference,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican for South Carolina. “That’s not the solution to the problem.”
But Republicans did not seem to have an alternative solution at hand, and they remain deeply divided over how to change the health care law. The Republican Party has little room for error because only three desertions in its ranks would prevent them from reaching the 50 votes they need to pass a law with the assistance of Vice President Mike Pence, who can break a tie.
On Tuesday night, a few hours after the debate began, Senate Republican leaders could not pass a bill that they spent weeks working but never got enough support from the base.
The fact that some Republicans have joined the Democrats in votes on the issue so far, underlines the challenge they face to achieve a consensus in the coming days.
Fifty-seven senators, including 9 Republicans, opposed the updated version of the measure, known by its acronym, BCRA, while 43 supported it.
Among those who voted against were hard-line conservatives like Mike Lee, Republican for Utah, and Rand Paul, Republican for Kentucky, as well as centrists like Dean Heller, Republican for Nevada, and Susan Collins, Republican for Maine.
A later attempt to abolish most of Obamacare was appealing to the conservatives, but he lost the support of several moderates and also figures of the caliber of Republican John McCain and Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.
President Donald Trump gave his first speech to Congress Tuesday night. Trump promised to protect the United States from Islamic terrorism, build the “Great Wall” on the border with Mexico and eliminate Obamacare to regain the country’s greatness, among several proposals.