GOP leaders appear close to securing 50 votes on key health-care vote

Senate Republican leaders appeared close to getting the support they needed Tuesday to begin debate on their plan to rewrite the Affordable Care Act, according to lawmakers and aides, though the proposal they would consider could change dramatically once senators began voting.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., will return to Washington for the key procedural vote, which will allow the Senate to move forward with health care legislation, and a longtime holdout, conservative Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., indicated on Twitter that he was now open to the idea. That puts the leadership within range of the votes it needs, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch Connell, R-Ky., negotiated with centrists by promising that they would ultimately like the final product.

“This morning, @SenateMajLdr informed me that the plan for today is to take up the 2015 clean repeal bill as I’ve urged,” Paul tweeted. “If that is the plan, I will vote to proceed to have this vote. I also now believe we will be able to defeat the new spending and bailouts.”

Republican leaders now see a scaled-down version of the bill as perhaps their best chance of winning final passage. That would set up a House-Senate conference to resolve the differences between the two proposals, buying Republicans more time.

McCain, who was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, was to arrive at the Capitol at 2:45 p.m., according to his office. The senator, who had been recuperating from surgery and exploring treatment options in Arizona, will later deliver remarks on the Senate floor after the vote.

President Donald Trump praised the senator for returning in an early-morning tweet Tuesday before exhorting Republicans to back the measure.

“So great that John McCain is coming back to vote. Brave – American hero! Thank you John,” tweeted Trump, who had criticized McCain during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Republican senators braced Tuesday for a long…

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