McCain Shocks Senate by Shooting Down Obamacare Repeal

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.

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"While the amendment would have repealed some of Obamacare’s most burdensome regulations, it offered no replacement to actually reform our healthcare system and deliver affordable, quality healthcare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!"