RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The Senate will not be voting this week on a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell postponed the vote until after the Fourth of July recess once it became clear he didn't have the support he needed in his own party to pass the measure. And that lack of enthusiasm appears to match the mood of the nation. A new NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist poll finds fewer than 1 in 5 Americans supports the Senate bill, but Republican leaders insist they're not giving up.
NPR's Scott Horsley is with us now. Good morning, Scott.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.
MARTIN: Senator McConnell very much wanted to have this vote this week before the Fourth of July and when all the congress members go home for that recess. He was forced to backtrack. So what now?
HORSLEY: Good question. This is a retreat. It's not necessarily a surrender. McConnell says he's still optimistic that he can win the support he needs from 50 senators to pass this bill. He doesn't have a lot of room to maneuver. There are only 52 Republican senators. And McConnell's worry has been that the more time people have to study this bill, the less they're going to like it.
After the postponement was announced yesterday, all the Republican senators trooped up to the White House for a meeting with President Trump. He ushered them into the East Room, and the president said they're getting close.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This will be great if we get it done. And if we don't get it done, it's just going to be something that we're not going to like. And that's OK, and I understand that very well. But I think we have a chance to do something very, very important for the public, very, very important for the people of our country that we love.
HORSLEY: The president also insisted, as he often does, that Republicans have to find a replacement for the Affordable Care Act because he says that law is collapsing. In fact the forecasters from the Congressional Budget Office said this week Obamacare is likely to remain stable in most of the country unless the president sabotages it, which his administration does have the power to do.
MARTIN: OK, so despite the president's promise that they're getting close, Americans don't exactly seem impressed with the way Republicans in Washington have been handling health care. What's the poll say about that?
HORSLEY: Right. Nearly two-thirds of those we surveyed disapprove of the way Republicans in Congress have been handling health care. Only 21 percent like the way Congress is going about it. The figures for the Senate bill itself are pretty similar, although about a quarter of those we surveyed said they didn't know enough about the Senate bill to really have an opinion. Remember; that bill was mostly drafted in secret. It was only made public late last week. And our poll was conducted before the CBO came out this week with its forecast saying the bill would leave 22 million more Americans uninsured by 2026.
MARTIN: So now in order to get the support it needs, this bill has probably got to change, right? So what kinds of changes might be in store?
HORSLEY: McConnell's really being pulled in two directions here because he's got moderate senators like Susan Collins who are worried that the bill doesn't cover enough people. They want to move it to the left. He's also got conservative senators who want to push the bill further to the right and dismantle more of the Affordable Care Act.
Our poll is pretty clear on what the American people want. Sixty-three percent either want to leave the Affordable Care Act as it is or have the government play a larger role and provide more help to people. Only 32 percent want to repeal Obamacare entirely or change it in a way that the government provides less help.
MARTIN: How is all this - I mean this debate over health care has been going on for so long. But how is - how are these recent months on this - how is it affecting the way Americans feel about all their political leaders in Washington?
HORSLEY: Well, it's not all about health care, but this has not been a great season for our political leaders. Sixty-one percent of the people we surveyed disapprove of the job congressional Republicans are doing. Democrats don't fare much better. Only 57 percent disapprove of Democrats' performance. And as for the president, our survey, like others, show that Trump is underwater. Just 37 percent of the people we surveyed approve of his performance. Fifty-one percent disapprove. What's more, there are twice as many people who say they strongly disapprove of Trump's performance as strongly approve of the way he's doing his job.
Now, Trump does continue to hold on to his most loyal supporters, but as he's been catering almost exclusively to that base, independents have been drifting away from the president. His net disapproval among independents surged 14 points in the last two months.
MARTIN: NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley, thanks so much.
HORSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.