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J. Scott Applewhite / AP

The Senate health care vote is off for at least a week, maybe more, as Republicans wait for John McCain to come back from surgery. That gives the bill's critics more time to put pressure on the moderate holdouts — and it's more time for damaging studies to come out.

But it also gives the Trump administration and GOP leaders more time to try to convince the moderates that the $70 billion they've added in "stabilization" money can take care of their concerns about Medicaid spending limits — though that pitch didn't go over so well with the governors at the National Governors Association meeting this weekend.

Here's what's going to change because of the delay, and what's not.

What's changing:

  • There won't be a Congressional Budget Office score of the revised bill today after all. In fact, a senior Senate GOP aide tells us it's "highly unlikely" we'll see a score this week at all.
  • Every day heightens the risk that one more Senate Republican will come out against the bill — or that an influential political leader like Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval will, increasing the odds that Nevada Sen. Dean Heller will, too.
  • It also heightens the risk of another loud warning that the bill could have dire consequences — like the blunt Friday night letter from America's Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association that Sen. Ted Cruz's insurance deregulation provision would hurt people with pre-existing conditions. (Cruz has accused insurance companies of "maximizing their own subsidies at the expense of consumer choice.")

What's not:

  • Despite speculation that the delay will buy time for CBO to analyze Cruz's proposal, we're told that's unlikely too — because it could take weeks for the budget office to figure out its effects.
  • The Trump administration may be trying to convince the moderates that their concerns are being taken care of, but Senate GOP leaders may not have a lot of new arguments to make. They've already added $115 billion (including opioid money), and they're reminding the moderates they can't do much more without losing the conservatives.
  • The big-picture dynamic hasn't changed: Most of the major industry groups oppose the bill, and most conservative groups are still pressuring Republicans, including the moderates, to keep their repeal promises.
  • Liberal groups' protests are going ahead as planned, with "People's Filibuster" rallies outside the Capitol building today and tomorrow.

Go deeper

House passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

Photo: Screenshot via C-SPAN

The House approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package on a 219-212 vote early Saturday morning, sending it to the Senate for a possible rewrite before it gets to Biden's desk.

The big picture: The vote was a critical first step for the package, which includes $1,400 cash payments for many Americans, a national vaccination program, ramped-up COVID testing and contact tracing, state and local funding and money to help schools reopen.

8 hours ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Most COVID-19 survivors can weather risk of reinfection, study says — "Twindemic" averted as flu reports plummet amid coronavirus crisis
  2. Vaccine: FDA advisory panel endorses J&J COVID vaccine for emergency use — About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.