WASHINGTON — Arizona’s new senator says he’d vote to repeal the nation’s health care law. That’s one additional Republican ready to obliterate the statute because his predecessor, the late Senator John McCain, helped derail the party’s drive with his fabled thumbs-down vote last year.
It could well be too little, too late.
After years of trying to demolish Barack Obama’s prized law, GOP leaders still lack the votes to succeed. Along with the law’s growing popularity and easing premium increases, that’s left top Republicans showing no appetite to quickly refight the repeal battle.
‘‘I’m not going to be asking for another vote on that this year,’’ No. 2 Senate GOP leader John Cornyn of Texas said last week when asked if he favored reopening the issue in a postelection lame duck session. No. 3 House leader Steve Scalise, Republican of Louisiana, said, ‘‘We need to win this election and then get more seats next year.’’ Each is their party’s chief vote counter.
That means any serious push to annul the statute would almost certainly hinge on Republicans retaining House control and adding Senate seats in November’s elections, neither of which is assured. If either goal eludes them on Election Day, President Trump’s ability to deliver on one of his top campaign promises would have to wait for a second term, if he gets one.
Republicans seemed to gain ground last week when Senator Jon Kyl replaced McCain, who died in August from brain cancer. Kyl said in a brief interview that he would have backed the measure that McCain opposed, a pivotal vote that would have sustained the repeal drive.
‘‘It seems to me that would have been a useful thing to do,’’ Kyl said.
That bill failed 51-49. A ‘‘yes’’ from McCain would have meant a 50-50 tie that Vice President Mike Pence could have broken by casting his own vote.
Yet the two other GOP senators who also voted no, Maine’s Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, haven’t relented. With Republicans controlling the Senate 51-49, the GOP remains short of the 50 votes they’d need.
Republicans have one fewer seat this year because Alabama Democrat Doug Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore in a December special election.