Republicans both in Alabama and the US Senate have dealt President Donald Trump a double blow, rejecting his move to repeal Obamacare and his preferred candidate for the vacant senate seat left by Attorney-General Jeff Sessions.
In Alabama, Republican voters elected conservative firebrand Roy Moore as the nominee for the Senate seat, instead of Trump’s choice , Luther Strange.
An outspoken evangelical Christian who has twice lost his position as the state’s top judge, Moore won election with a fierce anti-Washington message and a call to put religion at the center of public life.
“We have to return the knowledge of God and the Constitution of the United States to the United States Congress,” he said.
With all 67 counties reporting, Moore led Strange by 55 percent to 45 percent.
Despite campaigning for Strange, Trump congratulated Moore for his victory and urged him to defeat Democrat Doug Jones in the December election.
“Congratulations to Roy Moore on his Republican Primary win in Alabama. Luther Strange started way back & ran a good race. Roy, WIN in Dec!” Trump wrote on Twitter. And he also reportedly deleted his earlier pro-Strange tweets.
Since Alabama had not elected a Democrat since 1992, Moore is favored to win the December election.
Moore, 70, first lost his seat on the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the courthouse and a second time for defying the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage.
The race exposed rifts between the Republican party’s conservative base and its moneyed establishment — and within Trump’s inner circle.
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence appeared with Strange at rallies in the race’s closing days and a political group affiliated with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell spent close to $9 million on his behalf.
Moore, meanwhile, drew support from Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, and his secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson.
Bannon said Moore’s victory could embolden other grassroots challengers to try to unseat well-funded Republican incumbents in next year’s congressional elections.
Moore’s uncompromising style could bring a new level of turbulence to the Senate, where Republicans have struggled to reach consensus on tax and spending issues and have failed repeatedly to roll back Obamacare.
But Moore said he would back the president.
“Don’t let anybody in the press think that because he supported my opponent I do not support him and support his agenda,” Moore said.
In the senate, Republicans also dealt Trump a bigger blow by rejecting his bid to overturn Obamacare, the legacy healthcare law of the Obama era, that gives insurance cover to at least 20 million vulnerable Americans.
The senators fell short yet again on Tuesday in their seven-year drive to repeal Obamacare, in a bitter defeat that raises more questions about their ability to enact President Donald Trump’s agenda.
The party was unable to win enough support from its own senators for a bill to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act and decided not to put it to a vote, several Republicans said. The bill’s sponsors vowed to try again, but face steeper odds after Sunday, when special rules expire that allow them to pass healthcare legislation without Democratic support.
“We basically ran out of time,” said Senator Ron Johnson, a co-sponsor of the measure with Senators Bill Cassidy, Lindsey Graham and Dean Heller.
Republicans have now repeatedly failed to deliver on their longtime promise to roll back former Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature domestic accomplishment.
They have yet to achieve any major domestic policy successes in Congress this year, which could hurt their efforts to retain control of the Senate and House of Representatives in the November 2018 congressional elections.
Republicans widely view Obamacare, which provides coverage to 20 million Americans, as a costly government overreach. Trump vowed frequently during the 2016 election campaign to scrap it. Democrats have fiercely defended it, saying it has extended health insurance to millions.
After falling short in July, Senate Republicans tried again this month with a bill that would have given states greater control over the hundreds of billions of dollars that the federal government spends annually on health care.