The US Senate will not vote on controversial legislation to replace Obamacare
Donald Trump has blamed "all of the Democrats and a few Republicans" for the failure of a controversial healthcare bill in the US Senate.
Republican leaders in the upper house had been working on their own version of a bill to replace Obamacare - the signature healthcare legislation of Mr Trump's predecessor - ever since the House of Representatives narrowly passed their own bill.
The Republicans have a mere four-seat majority in the 100-seat Senate, meaning they could afford to lose the support of no more than two of their members to pass the bill (in the event of a tied vote, the US vice president casts the deciding vote).
However, despite a series of significant revisions to the legislation and a delay on a vote to allow Senator John McCain to recover from surgery, two more Republican senators yesterday announced they would not vote for the bill in its existing form - bringing the total to four.
With all Democrats and independents opposed to the proposed legislation, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed efforts to 'repeal and immediately replace' Obamacare had failed and the bill would not be voted on.
In a statement, he said senators would instead be voting on "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".
According to the New York Times, a straight repeal vote "has almost no chance to pass [...] since it could leave millions without insurance and leave insurance markets in turmoil".
In a series of tweets today, President Trump - who has made replacing Obamacare one of his main policy pledges - insisted "we will return" with another healthcare effort.
Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 18, 2017
We were let down by all of the Democrats and a few Republicans. Most Republicans were loyal, terrific & worked really hard. We will return!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 18, 2017
He argued: "As I have always said, let ObamaCare fail and then come together and do a great healthcare plan. Stay tuned!"
He also referenced next year's mid-term elections, suggesting: "With only a very small majority, the Republicans in the House & Senate need more victories next year since Dems totally obstruct, no votes!"
In its original form, the Republican's Better Care Reconciliation Act would have led to around 22 million Americans losing their health insurance by 2026, an independent budget office predicted.
Despite years of opposition to Obamacare, Republican leaders in both houses have struggled to gain sufficient support for their replacement plans, despite almost universal opposition in the party to the existing Affordable Care Act (ACA).
They have found themselves facing serious challenges in balancing the often conflicting demands of individual party members.
While conservative Republicans have said the proposals don't go far enough, more moderate politicians such as Senator Susan Collins have expressed reservations about the proposed cuts to the Medicaid social healthcare programme.
Still deep cuts to Medicaid in Senate bill. Will vote no on MTP. Ready to work w/ GOP & Dem colleagues to fix flaws in ACA.— Sen. Susan Collins (@SenatorCollins) July 13, 2017
Speaking as it became apparent that the Republican's current efforts had failed, Democrat minority leader Chuck Schumer said it was "proof positive that the core of this bill is unworkable".
Bernie Sanders - the prominent independent senator - said he was "delighted" with the bill's collapse.
I'm delighted to see the disastrous Republican health care plan won't succeed – a victory for the millions who stood up and fought back.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) July 18, 2017