The US Senate plans to vote tomorrow to try to advance a sweeping rewrite of the nation's healthcare laws with the last-minute arrival of Senate John McCain.
But tough talk from President Donald Trump won no new public support from sceptical GOP senators for the flagging effort that all but collapsed last week.
In a bit of drama, McCain, who announced last week he was diagnosed with brain cancer, said that he will return to the Capitol to vote on whether to start debate on the healthcare bill. The senator had been recuperating from surgery in Arizona.
"Senator McCain looks forward to returning to the United States Senate tomorrow to continue working on important legislation, including healthcare reform, the National Defence Authorisation Act, and new sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea," McCain's office said.
It is unclear, however, if McCain's return will improve Republicans' prospects of passing a key procedural hurdle to move the healthcare bill forward.
The news that McCain would return to Washington came after a day in which Trump took to publicly calling out Republicans in Congress for failing to achieve the rollback of the Affordable Care Act - something that both he and the GOP congressional majority have promised to do.
Speaking at a White House event, Trump threateningly urged Senate Republicans to vote "yes" on a procedural motion that would allow a proposal regarding the nation's healthcare system to be debated on the Senate floor. However, exactly what legislation lawmakers would be debating remained unclear to many of them.
In a West Virginia speech before the National Boy Scout Jamboree, Trump sought to pressure Senator Shelley Moore Capito by saying, "You better get Senator Capito to vote for it," referring to his health and human services secretary, Tom Price, who was with him. Trump also quipped that he would fire Price if he did not round up enough votes.
"As the Scout law says, a Scout is trustworthy, loyal - we could use some more loyalty, I can tell you that," Trump said in a day that was filled with thinly veiled barbs at Republicans who have failed to advance the healthcare revamp.
McCain's dramatic return could inject some suspense into a procedural vote to open debate on the healthcare legislation, which so far has failed to pick up strength - no matter which version is considered.
Revered on both sides of the aisle, the news that McCain has brain cancer cast a pall over the Capitol last week and his return is sure to provide a morale boost for colleagues in both parties.
But most immediately, McCain may provide a critical vote in support of beginning formal debate on the healthcare bill.
"I'm pretty confident we'll get on the bill even without John, " Senator John Cornyn, the chamber's lead GOP vote-counter, told reporters.
Senator Susan Collins said she spoke with McCain at the weekend and that her frequent collaborator was eager to get back to work.
Without McCain, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, could only have afforded one GOP defection. Multiple Republican senators have raised objections to each healthcare proposal that has been offered, leaving McConnell and Trump in a very difficult spot.
"There is still time to do the right thing," Trump said at the White House. He added a word of warning: "Any senator who votes against starting debate is telling Americans that you are fine with the Obamacare nightmare."