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John McCain’s surgery has put Mitch McConnell in a bind.

Alex Wong/Getty

On Saturday, Mitch McConnell announced that he would delay consideration of the Senate’s latest health care bill after—in a twist so obviously ironic that O. Henry would roll his eyes at it—John McCain required surgery to remove a blood clot. This is being spun by some as a good thing for the GOP, in that it gives McConnell more time to do what he does best, which is twist arms and make deals to get things done (or, during the Obama administration, not get things done). As Axios’s David Nather wrote on Monday, the added timegives the Trump administration and GOP leaders more time to try to convince the moderates that the $70 billion they’ve added in ‘stabilization’ money can take care of their concerns about Medicaid spending limits.”

Opponents of the bill should take this seriously. McConnell is a master of the dark arts and will undoubtedly be using the extra time to shore up support for the bill among his ranks. It only takes three Republican senators to kill this bill and so far only two, Rand Paul and Susan Collins, have stepped up to the plate. With the Russia scandal (justifiably) stealing oxygen from health care, McConnell has room to wheel and deal.

But it’s still a bit rich to suggest that the delay favors McConnell. The biggest issue is that McConnell’s only case is that the $70 billion in revisions and additions will make this bill slightly less odious and unpopular, while its critics can continue to make the case that this bill is odious and unpopular. Democrats are seizing the opportunity to point out that the bill has been written in secret and shielded from committee hearings because it is horrible:

McConnell is such a wily operator that we’re used to saying that any change plays into his hands. He was rushing the bill through the Senate because he knew that was the only way it would pass. Now that he’s hit a road block, there’s an argument that he’ll use the added time to craft a cunning way out of this. That may very well be true, but on balance this is a blow to the health care bill’s chances of passing.