by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, July 29 (Xinhua) -- After a marathon Congressional session, U.S. President Donald Trump failed to pass a bill that would overhaul the nation's healthcare sector Obamacare, which could disadvantage Republicans in the lead up to next year's Congressional elections, experts said.
"This issue will reverberate for several years in party circles. Right now, the 2018 elections are not looking very good for Republicans," Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua.
Critics say that Obamacare is unaffordable for many Americans, punishes Americans with fines for not opting into this expensive plan, and props up insurance companies with taxpayer dollars. Supporters say the plan has given millions of Americans access to health insurance who previously had none.
The skinny bill included a repeal of Obamacare's penalty on individuals who do not obtain health insurance, an eight-year repeal of a penalty on certain businesses that do not provide employees with insurance and a repeal of a tax on medical devices until 2020.
Lawmakers put in rare overtime this week before the August recess, as Republicans tried to pass the slimmed-down "skinny repeal" health care bill in a bid to keep a seven-year promise to end Obamacare, but ultimately their efforts failed, dealing a blow to the GOP voters.
However, there is a chance that the Trump administration and the Republicans can avoid lasting damage to the agenda with a quick transition to tax reform and a plan to repair U.S. infrastructure nationwide, experts said.
"Republicans face a big decision on Obamacare. They have failed to repeal the legislation so it remains the law of the land. At this point, they can accept defeat and work with Democrats to improve the program. Or they can use administrative means to undermine the program and attempt to destroy it slowly over the next few years," West said.
"The problem with the latter approach is that it will be very obvious what they are doing and they will be held responsible when people lose insurance and rates sky-rocket. That will be an issue in 2018 and be a political problem for the GOP," he added.
The Republican failure will be a major problem for conservatives, since it questioned the Republican Party's ability to govern even as it controls the White House, Senate and House of Representatives.
Some lawmakers urged a bipartisan effort to buttress the existing healthcare system, but it remained to be seen if the approach can get off the ground.
Trump had promised to get major healthcare legislation, tax cuts and a boost in infrastructure spending through Congress in short order.
However, with his administration mired in investigations into Russia's meddling with his election campaign and high-level White House staff infighting, Trump has been unable to score a major legislative victory after more than six months in office.