Mc­Cain pulls plug on Oba­macare re­peal

Sen­a­tor’s ‘no’ vote dooms Repub­li­can bill

National Post (National Edition) - - WORLD - ER­ICA WERNER

WASH­ING­TON • Sen. John Mc­Cain ap­peared poised to be the saviour of the GOP health bill when he re­turned to the Capi­tol ear­lier this week de­spite brain can­cer.

He turned out to be the bill’s ex­e­cu­tioner.

In an as­ton­ish­ing de­vel­op­ment early Fri­day, the long­time Ari­zona sen­a­tor turned on his party and his pres­i­dent, join­ing two other GOP sen­a­tors in vot­ing “no” on Repub­li­cans’ fi­nal ef­fort to re­peal “Oba­macare.”

His un­ex­pected vote killed the bill, and also dealt what looks like a death blow to the Repub­li­can Party’s years of prom­ises to get rid of Barack Obama’s health law.

At 80 years old in the twi­light of a re­mark­able ca­reer, Mc­Cain lived up to his rep­u­ta­tion as a maverick. When he walked into the well of the Se­nate around 1:30 a.m. and gave a thumbs-down to the leg­is­la­tion, Democrats briefly broke into cheers, which Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer quickly waved his arm to quiet.

Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell stood stone­faced, his arms crossed. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump later tweeted his dis­ap­proval, but a pres­i­dent who once mocked Mc­Cain’s years as a pris­oner of war in Viet­nam ap­par­ently did not have much sway on the six-term sen­a­tor when it counted.

Just days ear­lier, on Tues­day, Mc­Cain had buoyed GOP health ef­forts when he re­turned to the Capi­tol for the first time af­ter get­ting di­ag­nosed with a brain tu­mour, and cast a de­ci­sive vote to open de­bate on the GOP re­peal leg­is­la­tion. Yet even then he fore­cast that his sup­port could not be counted on, as he took the floor to lec­ture his col­leagues, the scars from his surgery etched se­verely along the left side of his face.

“The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and con­gres­sional Democrats shouldn’t have forced through Congress, with­out any op­po­si­tion sup­port, a so­cial and eco­nomic change as mas­sive as Oba­macare. And we shouldn’t do the same with ours,” Mc­Cain said then.

“Why don’t we try the old way of leg­is­lat­ing in the Se­nate, the way our rules and cus­toms en­cour­age us to act,” he added. “If this process ends in fail­ure, which seems likely, then let’s re­turn to reg­u­lar or­der.”

The out­come Mc­Cain pre­dicted came to pass — he made sure that it did. And now if Repub­li­cans want to get any­thing done on health care, they will have lit­tle choice but to re­turn to reg­u­lar or­der and turn to Democrats.

Mc­Cain was not the lone Repub­li­can sen­a­tor in killing the health bill. Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska ig­nored crit­i­cism and even threats from Trump and his ad­min­is­tra­tion to cast a “no” vote, as did Su­san Collins of Maine, a mod­er­ate who has op­posed GOP ef­forts all along.

McCon­nell’s re­marks in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the vote were a bit­ter re­buke to all three.

“I and many of my col­leagues did as we promised and voted to re­peal this failed law,” McCon­nell said on the Se­nate floor, glar­ing to­ward the Repub­li­can side of the aisle.

“We told our con­stituents we would vote that way and when the mo­ment came, when the mo­ment came, most of us did.”

Mc­Cain cast his “no” vote even though he cam­paigned for re-elec­tion last fall on prom­ises to re­peal and re­place “Oba­macare.” He did it de­spite heavy lob­by­ing in the Se­nate cham­ber from Vice-Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, who was in lengthy and in­tense con­ver­sa­tion with the sen­a­tor right be­fore the vote, as the pres­i­dent him­self pushed for the leg­is­la­tion to pass.

And in per­haps the crown­ing irony, Mc­Cain’s vote saved a law that was the sig­nal achieve­ment of his po­lit­i­cal neme­sis, Obama, who de­feated him for the pres­i­dency in 2008.

WHY DON’T WE TRY THE OLD WAY OF LEG­IS­LAT­ING IN THE SE­NATE.

CLIFF OWEN / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sen. John Mc­Cain, front left, is pur­sued by reporters af­ter cast­ing a “no” vote on a mea­sure to re­peal parts of Obama’s health care law.

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