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WATCH LIVE: Senate debates health care

Senators planned to vote Wednesday on a Republican amendment to repeal much of President Barack Obama’s law and give Congress two years to come up with a replacement. But that was expected to be rejected by a combination of solidly opposed Democrats and Republicans unwilling to tear down the law without a replacement in hand.

Watch the Senate debate live in the player above.

“Now we have to keep working hard,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday. “We’re determined to do everything we can to succeed. We know our constituents are counting on us.”

READ MORE: The Senate voted to open debate on health care. Now what?

In an initial GOP setback, the Senate voted 57-43 Tuesday to block a wide-ranging amendment by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to replace Obama’s statute with a more restrictive. Those voting no included nine Republicans, ranging from conservative Mike Lee of Utah to Alaska moderate Murkowski, in a roll call that raised questions about what if any reshaping of Obama’s law splintered Republicans can muster votes to achieve.

Tuesday’s rejected GOP amendment was centered on language by McConnell erasing Obama’s tax penalties on people who don’t buy insurance, cutting Medicaid and trimming subsidies for consumers. It included a provision by Ted Cruz, R-Texas, letting insurers sell cut-rate policies with skimpy coverage plus an additional $100 billion — sought by Midwestern moderates including Rob Portman, R-Ohio — to help states ease out-of-pocket costs for people losing Medicaid.

READ MORE: Suspense, taunts and cheers as the Senate health care debate moves forward

Before that defeat, Trump and McConnell had gained a reprieve from what seemed a likely defeat and won a 51-50 vote to begin debating the GOP health care measure, which sits atop the party’s legislative priorities.

In a day of thrilling political theater, Vice President Mike Pence broke a tie roll call after Sen. John McCain returned to the Capitol from his struggle against brain cancer to help push the bill over the top. There were defections from just two of the 52 GOP senators — Murkowski and Maine’s Susan Collins — the precise number McConnell could afford to lose and still carry the day.

The Associated Press wrote this report.
PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.

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