Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced Saturday that he is recovering at home from surgery to remove a blood clot above his left eye, prompting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Sunday to postpone a vote on the newest version of his health-care overhaul. Two of the 52 Republican senators — Susan Collins (Maine) and Rand Paul (Ky.) — have said they will vote no on the bill as currently written, meaning McConnell can't lose another Republican and pass the bill. Collins said Sunday on ABC's This Week that eight to 10 other GOP senators have "deep concerns" about the bill.
A key question for the bill's future, then, is when McCain will return to the Senate. The statement from McCain's office suggested he would be out only this week, but its explanation for the procedure — removal of a blood clot from "above his left eye" during a "minimally invasive craniotomy with an eyebrow incision" — prompted some medical experts contacted by The New York Times to suggest he could be out of longer than expected, depending on the specifics. A craniotomy is when surgeons open the skull, and the recovery time from such an operation "is usually a few weeks," said Dr. Nrupen Baxi, a neurosurgeon at New York's Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
The GOP push to replace the Affordable Care Act is getting increasingly unpopular and attracting more opposition from medical and insurance groups, a few key Republican governors, and liberal groups. "The McCain absence gives Mr. McConnell and the White House a chance to continue working on holdout senators without having to back down from a vote this week," The Wall Street Journal explains. "But it also creates a window for the 2010 health law's supporters to continue a fight they believe is more likely to be successful the longer they wage it." The bill's GOP proponents and outside analysts say they think the bill will be harder to pass the longer it is delayed, too.
"The longer the bill languishes, the less likely it will pass," Greg Valliere, chief global strategist at Horizon Investments, tells The Wall Street Journal. "While McCain's absence complicates the health debate, it already was in deep trouble, even when he was healthy." The White House, which unsuccessfully lobbied skeptical GOP governors over the weekend, did not comment directly on the delay. "We wish Sen. McCain a speedy recovery," said spokeswoman Helen Aguirre Ferré.