"Let Obamacare fail," US President Donald Trump said after senators from his Republican Party broke ranks and opposed repealing the health care law, leaving them short of votes.
If former president Barack Obama's 2010 Affordable Care Act – known as Obamacare – is repealed, 15 million people are predicted to lose health cover in 2018. That number will reach 22 million in the next few years.
US Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell set a vote on Tuesday on a straight repeal of Obamacare after efforts to overhaul the health care law collapsed. But the new approach unravelled within hours in a sharp setback for Trump and the Republicans.
"We're not going to own it, I'm not going to own it. ... Republicans are not going to own it. We will let Obamacare fail, and then the Democrats are going to come to us," Trump told reporters.
TRT World's Jon Brain has more.
A Republican failure
Repealing and replacing Obamacare has been a top Republican goal for seven years, and Trump made the promise a centrepiece of his White House campaign.
The overhaul's failure calls into question not only his ability to get his agenda through Congress but that of the Republican Party to govern effectively.
McConnell gave up on efforts to overhaul Obamacare late on Monday after it became clear he did not have the votes. Instead, he announced plans to vote in coming days on a two-year transition to simply repeal the health care law with no replacement.
"We will now try a different way to bring the American people relief from Obamacare," McConnell said on Tuesday as he opened the Senate, where the Republicans hold a razor-thin 52-48 majority. "I think we owe them at least that much."
But Republican senators Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska quickly announced they would not back repeal, dooming the fledgeling effort.
With Democrats united in opposition, Republicans can only afford to lose two votes to pass the measure in the Senate.
The disarray in the Republican-controlled Senate rattled financial markets and cast doubt on the chances for getting Trump's other domestic policy priorities, such as tax reform, through a divided Congress.
The dollar stumbled on Tuesday and US Treasury yields fell on the fresh setback.
The collapse of his fellow Republicans' push to repeal and replace Obamacare with their own health care bill in the Senate again raised doubts in financial markets about Trump's ability to enact tax cuts and infrastructure spending.
"It pushes out the rest of the agenda. It's hard to do a tax reform in the style that it was campaigned on," Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities in New York, said. "The health care hurdle pushes everything in Trump's agenda to 2018."