Republican leaders: Senate won’t vote on Obamacare repeal

Facing assured defeat, Republican leaders decided Tuesday not to even hold a vote on the GOP's latest attempt to repeal the Obama health care law, surrendering on their last-gasp effort to deliver on the party's banner campaign promise

Lindsey Graham, Mazie Hirono

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, right, accompanied by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., left, speaks during a Senate Finance Committee hearing to consider the Graham-Cassidy healthcare proposal, on Capitol Hill, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Bill Cassidy

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., speaks during a Senate Finance Committee hearing to consider the Graham-Cassidy healthcare proposal, on Capitol Hill, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Bill Cassidy, Rick Santorum

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., left, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, second from left, appear before a Senate Finance Committee hearing to consider the Graham-Cassidy healthcare proposal on Capitol Hill, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Rand Paul

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. Paul says he will not vote for the latest Republican health car bill, calling last-minute changes that would send more money to his state and those of other undecided senators as "suspicious." (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Susan Collins

FILE- In this Aug. 17, 2017, file photo, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, takes a question from a reporter while attending an event in Lewiston, Maine. The last-gasp Republican drive to tear down President Barack Obama's health care law essentially died Monday, Sept. 25, as Collins joined a small but decisive cluster of GOP senators in opposing the push. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

John MCain

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., arrives at the Capitol for a weekly Republican policy meeting, in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, amid the fading, last-ditch GOP push to overhaul the nation's health care system. Looking at the twilight of his career and a grim cancer diagnosis, McCain, who prides himself on an independent streak, could not be moved to go along with the Graham-Cassidy bill. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

John MCain

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., arrives at the Capitol for a weekly Republican policy meeting, in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, amid the diminishing, last-ditch GOP push to overhaul the nation's health care system. Looking at the twilight of his career and a grim cancer diagnosis, McCain, who prides himself on an independent streak, could not be moved to go along with the Graham-Cassidy bill. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON | Facing assured defeat, Republican leaders decided Tuesday not to even hold a vote on the GOP’s latest attempt to repeal the Obama health care law, surrendering on their last-gasp effort to deliver on the party’s banner campaign promise.

Leaving a lunch of Republican senators who’d gathered to discuss their next steps on the issue, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other leaders decided that “the votes are not there, not to have the vote.” Another lawmaker leaving the gathering, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., shook his head and said, “No,” when asked if a roll call would occur.

The decision marked the latest defeat on the issue for President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. In July, the Republican-controlled Senate rejected three similar GOP measures, a failure that infuriated conservatives and prompted Trump to spend much of his summer tweeting criticism at McConnell for falling short.

One of the measure’s sponsors, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the GOP fight to erase President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care overhaul would continue.

“We’re going to get there,” he said. “We’re going to fulfill our promise.”

Rejection became all but inevitable on Monday after Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins announced she opposed the legislation. She joined Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Texas’ Ted Cruz who’d already said they opposed the measure. Cruz aides said he was seeking changes that would let him vote yes.

Because of their narrow majority and unified Democratic opposition, Republicans can lose just two GOP votes and still push the legislation through the Senate. A vote or a decision by McConnell, R-Ky., to forego a roll call was needed this week because procedural protections against a bill-killing filibuster by Democrats expire Sunday.

In choosing whether to hold the roll call, McConnell had to pick between some Republicans arguing that lawmakers can’t be seen as abandoning a pledge that Trump and countless GOP have run on, and others challenging the value of shining a fresh spotlight on their inability to pass the bill.

The abandoned bill would transform much of “Obamacare’s” spending into grants that states could spend on health programs with few constraints.

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Associated Press congressional correspondent Erica Werner and writers Ken Thomas and Marcy Gordon contributed to this report.