Senate Republicans failed to pass a scaled-down Obamacare repeal bill early Friday with a vote of 49-51. The failed voted derailed the GOP’s seven-year campaign to dismantle the legacy of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act—dealing a major political setback for President Trump.
Three Republican senators — John McCain, Lisa Murkowski, and Susan Collins—and all Democrats voted against the bill—culminating in a major defeat for Republicans and President Donald Trump who made the repeal of Obamacare a focal point of his campaign.
The late-night debate leading into the early hours of Friday morning put to rest the GOP’s relentless mission to fulfill a seven-year promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
After the vote was final, President Trump tweeted:
3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down. As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 28, 2017
The Senate attempted to pass multiple versions of repeal—repeal and replace a straight repeal and Friday’s slimmed-down (skinny) repeal, but none garnered the support of 50 Republicans.
Joining two other Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Arizona Senator John McCain’s trip to Washington a week after receiving a diagnosis of brain cancer, cast the decisive vote to defeat the proposal. It was his vote — the 50th — that allowed Republicans begin debating the measure.
McCain denounced the rise of partisanship upon his return to the Senate on Tuesday with a passionate speech. It was McCain’s no vote that would sink the GOP’s “Skinny Repeal’ plan—putting an end to the partisan repeal effort.
Trump spoke to McCain on the phone Thursday night according to a White House spokesperson with direct knowledge of the call. The president urged McCain to vote to for the “skinny repeal” bill — assuring him it wouldn’t end up passing into law.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-KY), said after the 1:40 a.m. vote—Republicans remained committed to repealing the Obama-era health law.
“We told our constituents we would vote that way and when the moment came, the moment came, most of us did,” he added.
“This is clearly a disappointment,” McConnell added. “It’s time to move on.”
Vice President Mike Pence, reportedly arrived in the chamber with the hopes of rescuing the bill by casting a deciding vote.
John McCain voted against the Health Care Freedom Act on Friday morning, handing Republicans a stinging defeat. (Gage Skidmore/CC BY-SA 2.0)
Several Republicans said they were unsure of how McCain would vote. When McCain turned down his thumb to indicate his decision, audible gasps broke the silence in the chamber.
Senator McCain “The Renown Maverick,” had set into motion a vote that some would perceive as defying his party and the president—on the one issue that had been a thorn in the side of Republicans for seven years—to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Sending off a strong message of ‘bipartianship’ McCain walked off the Senate floor with few words, “I thought it was the right vote,” he said a short time later while getting into his car.
Senator McCain’s office put out a more detailed statement later:
“I’ve stated time and time again that one of the major failures of Obamacare was that it was rammed through Congress by Democrats on a strict-party line basis without a single Republican vote. We should not make the mistakes of the past that have led to Obamacare’s collapse, including in my home state of Arizona where premiums are skyrocketing, and health care providers are fleeing the marketplace.”
Senator Lisa Murkowski, (R-AL), stood against every version of the legislation despite the immense pressure coming from many within the GOP. The Trump administration threatened to withhold federal resources from Alaska because of Murkowski’s opposition, according to the Alaska Daily News. Murkowski said that she would not characterize the White House response as a “threat.”
“I sat there with Senator McCain. I think both of us recognize that it’s very hard to disappoint your colleagues,” Murkowski told NBC News after the vote. “And I know that there is disappointment because it was the three votes that Senator McCain, Senator Collins, and I cast that did not allow this bill to move forward. And that is difficult.”
“But I believe each of us stood up for the reasons that we felt were right,” she added.
The failed vote occurred about three hours after the text of the latest version was released, and the slimmed-down version, designed specifically to get the 50 votes needed. It wasn’t enough to garner the necessary support.
Democrats were consistent in sustaining pressure against Republicans by slowing down not only the health care debate on the floor but all Senate activity. Activists held daily protests on Capitol Hill—targeting certain senators’ offices. Those protests continued until the vote occurred Friday morning with health care activists gathered outside the Capitol.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), told reporters that he knew McCain was going to vote against his own party’s bill by around 10 p.m., three hours before the vote. He said he had talked to his colleague four or five times per day over the last three days.
“John McCain is a hero and has courage and does the right thing,” Schumer said.
Schumer would later tweet,
We are not celebrating; we are relieved–for the Americans who can now keep their #healthcare. We must work together to improve the law.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) July 28, 2017
The passage on the Health Care Freedom Act—the “skinny” repeal, was never certain. Even Republicans who voted for it disliked the bill.
“The skinny bill as policy is a disaster. The skinny bill as a replacement for Obamacare is a fraud. The skinny bill is a vehicle to getting conference to find a replacement,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R-SC), said at a Thursday evening news conference hours before the vote alongside fellow Republicans McCain, Ron Johnson and Bill Cassidy, before the details were released.
The “skinny” repeal was far from Republicans’ campaign promise of also rolling back Medicaid expansion, insurance subsidies, Obamacare taxes, and insurance regulations.
Many Republicans who did vote for it said they were holding their nose to vote for it just to advance the process into negotiations with the House of Representatives.
The legislation included a repeal of the individual mandate to purchase insurance, a repeal of the employer mandate to provide insurance, a one-year defunding of Planned Parenthood, a provision giving states more flexibility to opt out of insurance regulations, and a three-year repeal of the medical device tax. It also would have increased the amount that people can contribute to Health Savings Accounts.
In the hurried process of trying to come up with legislation, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released an analysis late on Thursday night that found that 16 million people would lose their health insurance in 2018 under the latest plan. Premiums would have risen 20 percent each year over the next decade, the analysis found
By LeNora Millen 07-29-17