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Healthcare bill's collapse escalates Republican infighting

Frustration may lead to weakened party in next year's congressional elections

WASHINGTON: The failure by United States President Donald Trump and fellow Republicans to dismantle Obamacare has infuriated the party's conservative flank and is intensifying intra-party warfare ahead of next year's congressional elections.

Donors and activists upset by the collapse of the latest Senate healthcare bill said it hardened their determination to back conservative candidates in the elections, even if that means ousting incumbents.

"I am fed up. I am beyond frustrated," said Mrs Mica Mosbacher, a Houston-based Republican fund-raiser.

She added she is "extremely disappointed in Ted Cruz," a Republican senator from Texas who had threatened to oppose the latest healthcare bill because he wanted to see changes.

Texas is scheduled to hold the first nominating primary of the midterm elections in March next year.

Mr Trump vowed during last year's presidential election campaign to scrap the 2010 Affordable Care Act, former Democratic president Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement and which Republicans see as a costly government overreach.

The latest bill to overturn Obamacare failed on Tuesday after three Senate Republicans, including moderate Susan Collins and conservative Rand Paul, said they could not support it.

Republicans narrowly control the chamber by 52-48.

In November next year, all 435 seats of the House of Representatives and 33 seats in the Senate will be up for election.

In the Senate, that includes 23 Democrats and eight Republicans, with several in both parties in fights expected to be competitive.

If a large number of Republicans are forced to defend their seats against challengers from their own party in primary fights, Democrats will seek to exploit weakened candidates in their effort to wrest control of the House and Senate.

A shift of either chamber into Democratic hands would make it even more difficult for Mr Trump to pass his agenda of tax reform, toughening immigration laws and rolling back Obamacare.

Mrs Mosbacher said she is "leaning towards supporting" Mr Cruz's primary opponent Stefano de Stefano even though she served as fund-raiser for the incumbent's 2012 campaign.

Whoever prevails in that fight would likely face Mr Beto O'Rourke, a well-funded Democrat, in the general election.

Mr Dave Tamasi, a Republican lobbyist and fund-raiser, said he thought it was too soon to know if the healthcare failure would hurt Republicans.

"Opponents may try to use the failure to pass a repeal of the Affordable Care Act to give their candidacy a little bit of a push," he said.

"The question is, can that fuel today sustain itself over the long term of an election cycle?" - REUTERS

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