Washington: Republican leaders have forged ahead with a health care replacement plan despite strong opposition from lawmakers within the party, highlighting the deep divisions surrounding US President Donald Trump's chief legislative priority.
Two committees in the House of Representatives held marathon sessions on Wednesday to debate a sweeping bill that unwinds and replaces the Affordable Care Act, the emblematic health care reforms implemented under Barack Obama.
After seven years of Republican efforts to rip up Obamacare, it remained unclear whether Mr Trump has the necessary votes to get the increasingly controversial replacement measure across the finish line - even with Republicans controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress.
Mr Trump and his team are "in full sell mode" regarding the plan, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said.
Republican leaders indicated they want to get the bill to the president's desk prior to the Easter break in early April.
But the plan suffered a serious blow Wednesday when several major hospital and medical organisations, including the American Medical Association which represents more than 200,000 doctors, lined up to oppose the American Health Care Act.
The "critically flawed" bill would "result in millions of Americans losing coverage and benefits" and would raise prices for the poor and sick, the association said.
Tempers flared in the House Energy and Commerce Committee as lawmakers clashed over how to proceed.
Democrats sought unsuccessfully to postpone the bill's consideration for 30 days. They also threatened to introduce some 100 amendments, some of which were debated Wednesday.
"If people didn't like Obamacare, they're going to hate this," said House Democrat Eliot Engel.
The plan was crafted by Republican leaders and endorsed by Mr Trump, who campaigned heavily last year on a pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare.
But influential Republicans are hardening against the plan, arguing it is too similar to the law despised by conservatives.
Far-right lawmakers said the plan shuns conservative principles by maintaining government subsidies of the Affordable Care Act, under the guise of "refundable tax credits" for people to purchase their own health insurance.
"I don't think the plan they introduced yesterday is going to bring down the cost for working-class and middle-class families," House Republican Jim Jordan, who has described the tax credit provision as a new entitlement, told MSNBC.