The decision was reached at a party lunch Tuesday after it became clear the plan would fail, GOP senators said. Three Senate Republicans had already said they would vote against the measure, and the GOP could only afford two defections.
“Why have a vote if you know what the outcome is and it’s not what you want,” said GOP Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama. “I don’t know what you gain from that. But I do believe that the health care issue is not dead, and that’s what counts.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans are not giving up on a health care bill but made clear he wants a quick pivot to another issue where Republicans hope to notch a legislative victory: taxes.
“We haven’t given up on changing the American health-care system … We’re not going to do it this week, but it still lies ahead of us. We haven’t given up on that,” McConnell said Tuesday afternoon. “Where we go from here is tax reform.”
Vice President Mike Pence also told Republicans they should keep working on health care and not give up just because a key procedural deadline to pass the bill with a simple majority expires after Sept. 30.
“The vice president said that we need to resolve to do this now before this current Congress leaves office,” at the end of 2018, according to a Republican senator in the room.