With John McCain but no clear plan, Senate prepares for health fight

A woman joins other protesters against Republican senators who have not spoken up against the Affordable Care Act repeal and demand universal, affordable, quality healthcare for all on July 24, 2017 in Fort Lauderdale, United States. The US Senate is
A woman joins other protesters against Republican senators who have not spoken up against the Affordable Care Act repeal and demand universal, affordable, quality healthcare for all on July 24, 2017 in Fort Lauderdale, United States. The US Senate is expected to vote on Tuesday on the healthcare legislation after it twice postponed the vote. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON - Senate Republican leaders, keeping alive their push to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, are barrelling towards a showdown vote on Tuesday (July 25) to begin debating a repeal of the health law.

And Senator John McCain announced on Monday night that he will be on hand to cast his vote, despite a diagnosis of brain cancer.

Before Mr McCain announced that he was jetting in to cast what is expected to be a vote in favour of starting debate, United States President Donald Trump spent Monday ratcheting up pressure on Republican senators to get onboard. Mr Trump criticised their inaction and warned that they risked betraying seven years' worth of promises to raze and revamp the health law if they did not.

"Remember 'repeal and replace,' 'repeal and replace' - they kept saying it over and over again," Mr Trump said at the White House, flanked by people who he said suffered as "victims" of the "horrible disaster known as Obamacare".

"Every Republican running for office promised immediate relief from this disastrous law," the President said. "But so far, Senate Republicans have not done their job in ending the Obamacare nightmare."

Mr Tom Perez, the Democratic National Committee chairman, countered: "No matter how many ways President Trump tries to twist or hide the truth, the facts won't change: The Affordable Care Act has been a lifesaver for millions of Americans."

The remarks from Mr Trump, who has been largely absent from the policy debate, had the ring of a threat by a President who has grown frustrated watching Republicans repeatedly try, and fail, to reach consensus on his campaign promise to immediately roll back the health law and enact a better system.

He said their constituents would exact a price for inaction and hinted that any Republican who did not support the bid to open debate on an as-yet-determined health bill would be painted as complicit in preserving a health law passed on the basis of "a big, fat, ugly lie". Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he would move ahead with a procedural vote on Tuesday to take up the health bill that narrowly passed the House in May.

If that vote succeeds, the Senate would then be able to consider numerous amendments.