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Facing defections, Senate GOP leaders delay health care vote

ALAN FRAM and ERICA WERNER
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — In a bruising setback, Senate Republican leaders are delaying a vote on their prized health care bill until after the July 4 recess, forced to retreat by a GOP rebellion that left them lacking enough votes to even begin debating the legislation, two sources said Tuesday.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., arrives for party policy meetings as the Senate Republican health care bill teeters on the brink of collapse, lacking votes even to start debate, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, June 27, 2017. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., needs 50 members of his conference to back the GOP health care bill in order to pass it. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., delivered the message to GOP senators at a private lunch attended by Vice President Mike Pence and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. The decision was described by a Republican aide and another informed person who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the closed-door decision.

All GOP senators were planning to travel to the White House later Tuesday to meet with President Donald Trump, one source said.

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McConnell had hoped to push the measure through his chamber by this week’s end, before an Independence Day recess that party leaders fear will be used by foes of the legislation to tear away support.

The bill rolling back much of President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law has been one of the party’s top priorities for years, and the delay is a major embarrassment to Trump and McConnell. At least five GOP senators — conservatives and moderates — had said they would vote against beginning debate.