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Lazaro Gamio / Axios

NPR and PBS NewsHour are out this morning with a Marist poll showing 17% approval of the Senate's healthcare plan, and 21% approval of the GOP's handling of health care. That may partly reflect how the question was asked.

  • But it's a disgrace when your party controls the whole federal apparatus. And it shows the foreboding feat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell faces in trying to revive repeal-and-replace after his stunning gamble to punt the vote until after the July 4 break.
  • The announcement was followed by a swarm of defections — opposition was suddenly cost-free.
  • The lull gives more time for negotiation but, more likely, more time for opposition to metastasize and spook senators when they're home for the holiday.

Yes, as Republicans argue, senators will be spending time with conservative backers who'll remind them of their pledge. But it's also more time for the real-world effects to sink in, and for opposition to snowball as senators decide they can't stomach a career-defining vote that's freighted with so many unknowns.

As one person closely tracking the debate emailed: "It feels like McConnell is moving inevitably toward his own 'Obamacare is the law of the land' moment."

The state of play:

  • McConnell's reputation for the inside game is such that Republicans assume he must have something up his sleeve. One top Republican alumnus put the bill's chances of coming back at 15%. But then as he continued to muse, he doubled it to 30% just because of the McConnell factor.
  • What Senate Republicans are thinking, via Jonathan Swan: "Rough day, but far too soon to call it a lost cause. .. [F]or all of Mitch McConnell's widely-acknowledged legislative wizardry, he's never had to pass healthcare before. ... [I]t's the hardest vote some of these senators will ever have to take. It's also something that Republicans have disagreed over for 30 years, so why would they start agreeing now?"
  • An administration source insists there's a path to passage in the Senate, just as there was in the House despite the naysayers. The path as this source sees it: "some sort of deal that gives money in the short-term to the moderates in exchange for long-term reforms for the conservatives."
  • The source said the short-term money would bolster Medicaid and the response to the opioid crisis. The conservative sweeteners would include spending growth rate assurances and regulation changes.

McConnell has a slush fund of "room" in the deal to make individual deals with senators. But it would take a tectonic disruption to shake up this losing calculus.

Be smart: President Trump has very limited leverage over Republican Senators, especially moderates. There's no threat he could make that would make some of them change their minds.

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Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.

Obama stumps for McAuliffe, urges Virginians not "to go back to the chaos"

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama framed a Nov. 2 gubernatorial race as a bellwether for the Democratic Party and the country, telling a crowd at a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe on Saturday that "I believe you, right here in Virginia, are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we're not going to indulge in our worst instincts."

Why it matters: With just over a week to go before Election Day in the Commonwealth, McAuliffe is bringing out the big guns. The 44th president appeared on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University to urge supporters to get to the polls.