Senate GOP leaders decide not to hold vote on last-ditch Obamacare repeal

Last Updated Sep 26, 2017 3:06 PM EDT

Senate Republican leaders have decided not to bring their last-ditch Obamacare repeal bill, known as Graham-Cassidy, to the floor this week, for now killing their seven-year effort to dismantle the 2010 health care law.

"We don't have the votes," said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, one of the co-authors of the bill, at a press conference following a closed-door Senate GOP Conference lunch. "We made the decision that since we don't have the votes, we won't hold the vote." 

The decision comes after three Senate Republicans came out against the latest version of the measure -- John McCain of Arizona, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan Collins of Maine. Republicans could only afford two defections, assuming all Democrats were going to oppose the legislation proposed by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina and Cassidy.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said that the GOP will now move forward with their next priority, which is tax reform. 

"We're coming back to this after taxes," Graham insisted at a press conference after their lunch. "We're going to fulfill our promise to repeal and replace." 

Republicans were relying on the budget reconciliation process to repeal the law, which allows for passage of certain legislation with 51 votes rather than the usual 60-vote threshold. However, due to a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian, Senate Republicans have only until Saturday, the end of the fiscal year, to use the procedure.

Under the bill, "millions fewer" people would have health insurance over the next decade according to a preliminary analysis released Monday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT).

Collins came out against the measure after the CBO report was released.

"It found, as I suspected would be the case, that it would have a negative impact on millions of Americans who are now insured, so it was the final piece of the puzzle that I had been waiting to confirm," Collins told reporters outside her Senate office. 

McCain had announced Friday that he opposed the last-ditch Graham-Cassidy effort because it hadn't gone through regular order. He helped deliver the deciding blow to GOP leadership's last effort to repeal Obamacare at the end of July, shocking the political world by turning his thumb down in a "no" vote. McCain was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer over the summer.

Paul also railed against the bill, describing it as "Obamacare lite." 

Many health care advocacy groups opposed the measure as did a bipartisan group of governors

CBS News' Margaret Brennan and Nancy Cordes contributed to this report.

  • Rebecca Shabad

    Rebecca Shabad is a video reporter for CBS News Digital.