WASHINGTON • An angry President Donald Trump has railed against dissenters in his party who dashed his months-long effort to dismantle Mr Barack Obama's landmark healthcare law.
Mr Trump fired off a series of tweets complaining about how he was "let down" by Democrats "and a few Republicans", who announced their opposition on Tuesday night to the latest leadership plan to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
With four Republicans now lined up against US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's health overhaul, the plan has flatlined in the 100-member chamber, where the party could afford only two defectors to get the measure passed.
The dramatic implosion effectively means Mr Trump, who marks his first six months in office later this week, has no major legislative victory under his belt, squandering months of political capital.
Mr Trump had campaigned relentlessly on a pledge to abolish most of the Affordable Care Act, proclaiming at an October campaign rally that it would be "so easy" to immediately repeal and replace the law.
But, on Monday night, he ran into the uncompromising reality of American politics: Even with a president's party enjoying a majority in both chambers, crafting and passing landmark legislation can be difficult in the US Congress.
The failure suggests an inability by Mr Trump - a political neophyte who often highlighted his lack of connections to establishment Washington - to get members of his own party to fall into line.
Nevertheless, Mr Trump put on a brave face, insisting on Twitter on Tuesday that "we will return!" He said he was disappointed by the failure and suggested he might let the insurance markets created under Obamacare go under and then, potentially, work with Democrats on a rescue. "We're probably in that position where we'll just let Obamacare fail... and then the Democrats are going to come to us," he told reporters at the White House.
Mr McConnell was by no means giving up. He told colleagues on Tuesday that, despite regretting that the effort failed, "I believe we must continue to push forward now." In the coming days, Mr McConnell will introduce a Bill that repeals Obamacare outright, but with a two-year delay of implementation, in order to allow Congress time to craft a replacement.
But prospects for the repeal vote appeared doomed with at least three Republican senators voicing opposition. Moderates Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska quickly said they would not back a repeal.
A straight repeal Bill passed Congress in 2015. But that was during Mr Obama's presidency, and Republicans knew they would pay no political price for their votes, as Mr Obama vetoed the measure.
Mr Trump would likely sign such legislation, putting Republicans on the hook for any ensuing disruption to the healthcare system.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has warned that simply repealing Obamacare would essentially kick 18 million people off healthcare insurance in the first year, compared with the current law, a figure that would balloon to 32 million by 2026.
Democrats, clearly delighted with the turn of events, welcomed the Republicans' failure to replace Obamacare as an opportunity to work together. Republicans conceded their other options may be exhausted. "This is our moment, we have been waiting for this moment for months and months and in fact for years," Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar said on Tuesday.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS