Still, as senators left the nearly three-hour meeting at the Capitol, they professed optimism.
The Republicans initially planned to bring in chiefs of staff and health care wonks to advance the negotiations. White House chief of staff Reince Priebus was expected to join and help push the disagreeing senators to yes.
But as the senators kept talking, they re-evaluated their plan and decided not to allow staff in and to keep the room to members only. Priebus strolled out of Sen. John Barrasso’s office, as did White House legislative director Marc Short. The senators would continue talking among themselves.
Talks “narrowed down to try to figure out what is causing members not to be able to vote in favor or problems they have with the bill,” said Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), who opposes the GOP’s latest repeal and replace draft. “It had merit, and it’s something that should have been taking place.”