With 52 Republican senators in the 100-member chamber, McConnell could lose only two of his colleagues on any bill that was opposed by Democrats and still win with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote.
The latest plan, an attempt to resurrect the 2015 Obamacare repeal- which would kill the law, but keep it in place until a replacement is delivered- just got shot down by a group of moderate Republicans: Susan Collins, Shelley Moore Capito, and Lisa Murkowski.
Republican President Donald Trump has suggested several times that he could eliminate the so-called cost-sharing reduction subsidies, which help pay for consumers' out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. McConnell corrected him: it has been only six months. "Because of the animosity, vitriol, the partisanship".
"I think this is the time for bipartisan efforts", he said.
Cornyn was one of the attendees at the Monday White House dinner, along with Sens. "After all, Senate Republicans already passed this legislation once".
But the prospects for approving a clean repeal bill followed by work on replacement legislation, even with Trump ready to sign it, seemed shaky.
The $4 trillion spending blueprint, released by the House of Representatives budget committee, could become a new flashpoint for Republican in-fighting because it links future tax cuts for businesses and individuals with $203 billion in mandatory spending cuts that would reduce benefits for the poor. With the Senate Republican leadership struggling to find the votes to advance its Better Care Reconciliation Act on Monday, Sens. Ted Cruz, mocked McConnell on Twitter, saying he has accomplished "nothing at all", while maintaining a reputation as a "legislative mastermind".
"In part they (Republicans) misunderstood how difficult it will be" to repeal and replace Obamacare, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a Democrat, said in a phone interview.
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The disarray in the Republican-controlled Senate rattled financial markets as it cast doubt on the chances of getting Trump's other domestic policy priorities, such as tax reform, through a divided Congress.
This is not to say that it would be easy or simple to fix what is wrong with Obamacare, whose shortcomings have long been obvious. The CBO estimated 22 million more people would have eventually lost or be forced to go without health coverage.
"As I have always said", Trump tweeted early Tuesday morning, "let Obamacare fail and then come together and do a great healthcare plan".
What's particularly embarrassing for Republicans is that the party controls both the White House and Congress for the first time in 10 years.
"The healthcare hurdle pushes everything in Trump's agenda to 2018", said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities in New York.
To mollify the moderates, McConnell told them that the cuts would never actually happen, as Congress has a way of punting tough decisions like that in perpetuity. "We'll be moving on to comprehensive tax reform and infrastructure", he said. They range from an Iranian-based company accused of aiding the country's drone program to a Turkey-based provider of naval equipment and a China-based network that helped secure electronics for Tehran. This seemed to reflect the understanding among a large share of the party's members that they would bear the blame if they destroyed the existing health insurance system without a viable replacement waiting in the wings.
We can look all the way back to this spring, when House Republicans were trying to pass their measure unraveling Obamacare.
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