The Senate on Wednesday voted against a straight repeal of the Affordable Care Act, with seven Republican senators siding with Democrats.
The strategy emerged after Republicans barely succeeded earlier this week in opening debate on health legislation in the narrowly divided Senate, winning the procedural vote to do so thanks only to Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie.
Republicans are scrambling to garner support for a plan that will dismantle Obamacare - further evidence that Donald Trump's boast saying that scrapping his predecessor's healthcare law would be easy has fallen flat.
The bill is modeled on 2015 legislation that was passed by both chambers before being vetoed by then-President Obama.
The big main event is the "skinny" Obamacare repeal bill that will come up either on Thursday or Friday.
In the meantime, GOP leaders continue to work on a final Republican bill - the sort of thing senators traditionally do before the process begins, not during the process itself - that McConnell & Co. hope can get 50 votes.
On Tuesday night, the Senate began the debate-and-vote process, which is expected to last a number of days.
Although they control the Senate, Republicans do so only by a bare majority.
More votes are coming, and we won't know until the last one is cast whether McCain's votes in total match his lovely speech. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to allow insurers to sell bare-bones health care plans that don't cover maternity care and other major benefits as long as the companies also sell plans that include a full range of benefits.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the proposal would result 32 million more uninsured over the next decade. One possibility taking shape in talks among senators was a "skinny repeal" that would abolish just a few of the key elements of Obama's law, including its mandates that everyone purchase insurance and its taxes that all GOP senators can agree to oppose.