WASHINGTON — The senator who was defeated by President Obama in his 2008 quest for the White House stepped in to cast the deciding vote to kill Senate Republicans’ last-gasp effort to repeal Obama’s signature healthcare legislation before the summer recess.
Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) were expected to vote against the “skinny repeal” — a bare-bones repeal of only the individual and employer mandates as well as the medical device tax; the latter has drawn bipartisan criticism over the years.
Vice President Mike Pence was at the Capitol, ready to cast a tie-breaking vote as he had to do when Collins and Murkowski were the lone GOP dissenters on the motion to proceed to the healthcare debate. But the final tally was 49-51.
Audible gasps arose from the Dem side of the chamber when Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) walked forward and cast a “no” vote.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) July 28, 2017
McCain said in a statement after the vote that he still believes Obamacare should be replaced with a better healthcare “solution,” but the “skinny” amendment “would not accomplish those goals.”
“While the amendment would have repealed some of Obamacare’s most burdensome regulations, it offered no replacement to actually reform our healthcare system and deliver affordable, quality healthcare to our citizens,” he said.
Earlier in the day, McCain and a few other GOP senators had sought assurance from the House that, if they received the “skinny” bill from the Senate, they would vote “no” and instead send the version passed earlier by the lower chamber and the Senate “skinny” bill to be hammered out in a conference committee. “The Speaker’s statement that the House would be ‘willing’ to go to conference does not ease my concern that this shell of a bill could be taken up and passed at any time,” McCain said after his “no” vote.
“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 has led to Obamacare’s collapse, including in my home state of Arizona where premiums are skyrocketing and healthcare providers are fleeing the marketplace,” the senator continued. “We must now return to the correct way of legislating and send the bill back to committee, hold hearings, receive input from both sides of aisle, heed the recommendations of nation’s governors, and produce a bill that finally delivers affordable healthcare for the American people.”
President Trump, who earlier this week tweeted thanks to McCain for returning to Washington for the cloture vote days after his brain cancer diagnosis, tweeted after today’s wee-hours vote: “3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down. As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!”
A few hours earlier, the president had tweeted: “Go Republican Senators, Go! Get there after waiting for 7 years. Give America great healthcare!”
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared on the Senate floor that “yes, this is a disappointment.”
“A disappointment indeed. Our friends over in the House, we thank them as well. I regret that our efforts were simply not enough this time,” he said. “I imagine many of our colleagues on the other side are celebrating, probably pretty happy about all of this. But the American people are hurting and they need relief.”
“…What we tried to accomplish for the American people was the right thing for the country. And our only regret tonight is that we didn’t achieve what we had hoped to accomplish.”
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) replied that “we are not celebrating — we are relieved.”
“We are relieved, not for ourselves but for the American people. But, as I said, over and over again, Obamacare was hardly perfect. It did a lot of good things, but it needs improvement… I hope that one part of turning that page is that we go back to regular order, work in the committees together to improve Obamacare,” Schumer added.
The Alaska Dispatch News reported Thursday that, after Trump called out Murkowski on Twitter on Wednesday, “each of Alaska’s two Republican senators had received a phone call from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke letting them know the vote had put Alaska’s future with the administration in jeopardy.”
Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) told the paper that the call was “troubling.”
“I’m not going to go into the details, but I fear that the strong economic growth, pro-energy, pro-mining, pro-jobs and personnel from Alaska who are part of those policies are going to stop,” Sullivan said. “I tried to push back on behalf of all Alaskans. … We’re facing some difficult times and there’s a lot of enthusiasm for the policies that Secretary Zinke and the president have been talking about with regard to our economy. But the message was pretty clear.”