Blow for Trump as US Senate rejects partial 'Obamacare' repeal

Three Republicans crossed party lines to vote against the repeal

Blow for Trump as US Senate rejects partial 'Obamacare' repeal

Capitol Hill, Washington, 27-07-2017. Image: AP Photo/Cliff Owen

The US Senate has rejected a move to repeal parts of the ‘Obamacare’ health law, in what is being hailed as a serious setback to President Donald Trump.

Senator John McCain was among three Republicans, who joined with all Democrats to narrowly reject the key health care amendment.

The bill was rejected in a 49-to51 vote.

The defeat effectively ends the Republican Party's seven-year bid to overturn the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

GOP politicians made the decision to vote on a partial repeal of Barack Obama’s signature healthcare reform after failing to reach agreement on a more comprehensive alternative.

Following the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said: "This is clearly a disappointing moment."

President Trump had made replacing Obamacare a key pledge in his successful campaign for the White House.

Responding to tonight's vote, he said the 51 senators who rejected the partial repeal had "let the American people down."

Russia Sanctions

Meanwhile, the Senate has also voted – almost unanimously – to slap new sanctions Russia – putting President Trump in a tough position by forcing him to take a hard line on Moscow or veto the legislation.

The legislation all but dashes the president’s hopes for warmer ties with Moscow as his administration is dogged by congressional and special counsel investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

Russian President Vladimir Putin – who has repeatedly denied the conclusions of US intelligence agencies that Moscow interfered using cyber warfare methods – has threatened retaliation against the legislation.

The Senate backed the bill, which also imposes sanctions on Iran and North Korea, by a margin of 98-2 with strong support from Mr Trump's fellow Republicans as well as Democrats.

The bill, which includes a provision that allows Congress to stop any effort by Mr Trump to ease existing sanctions on Russia, will now be sent to the White House for the President to sign into law or veto.

US Foreign policy

It is the first major foreign policy legislation approved by Congress under President Trump, who has struggled to advance his domestic agenda despite Republicans controlling the Senate and House of Representatives.

President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, 27-07-2017. Image: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

If the president chooses to veto it, the bill is expected to garner enough support in both chambers to override his veto and pass it into law.

The sanctions measure has already passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 419-3.

Republicans and Democrats have pushed for more sanctions partly as a response to the election allegations. Mr Trump denies any collusion between his campaign and Moscow.

Republican Senator John McCain, a leading congressional voice calling for a firm line against Russia, said before the vote: "The United States of America needs to send a strong message to Vladimir Putin and any other aggressor that we will not tolerate attacks on our democracy."

Kremlin response

Mr Putin said Moscow would only decide on how to retaliate once it had seen the final text of the proposed law.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a press conference in Finland, 27-07-2017. Image: Xinhua/Matti Matikainen

The 184-page bill seeks to hit Mr Putin and the oligarchs close to him by targeting Russian corruption, human rights abusers, and crucial sectors of the Russian economy, including weapons sales and energy exports.

The North Korea sanctions are intended to thwart Pyongyang's ambition for nuclear weapons by cutting off access to the cash the reclusive nation needs to follow through with its plans.

The package also imposes mandatory penalties on people involved in Iran's ballistic missile programme and anyone who does business with them.

The measure would apply terrorism sanctions to the country's Revolutionary Guards and enforce an arms embargo.