Se­nate opens ‘Oba­macare’ de­bate at last but out­come in doubt

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD -

Prod­ded by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, a bit­terly di­vided Se­nate voted at last Tues­day to move for­ward with the Repub­li­cans’ long­promised leg­is­la­tion to re­peal and re­place “Oba­macare.” There was high drama as Sen. John McCain re­turned to the Capi­tol for the first time af­ter be­ing di­ag­nosed with brain cancer to cast a de­ci­sive “yes” vote.

The fi­nal tally was 51-50, with Vice-Pres­i­dent Mike Pence break­ing the tie af­ter two Repub­li­cans joined all 48 Democrats in vot­ing “no.”

With all sen­a­tors in their seats and pro­test­ers ag­i­tat­ing out­side and briefly in­side the cham­ber, the vote was held open at length be­fore McCain, 80, en­tered the cham­ber. Greeted by cheers, he smiled and dis­pensed hugs - but with the scars from re­cent surgery starkly vis­i­ble on the left side of his face. De­spite vot­ing “yes,” he took a lec­tur­ing tone af­ter­ward and hardly saw suc­cess as­sured for the leg­is­la­tion af­ter weeks of mis­fires, even af­ter Tues­day’s vic­tory for Trump and Repub­li­can leader Mitch McCon­nell.

“If this process ends in fail­ure, which seems likely, then let’s re­turn to reg­u­lar or­der,” McCain said as he chided Repub­li­can lead­ers for de­vis­ing the leg­is­la­tion in se­cret along with the ad­min­is­tra­tion and “spring­ing it on skep­ti­cal mem­bers.”

“Stop lis­ten­ing to the bom­bas­tic loud­mouths on the ra­dio, TV and in­ter­net. To hell with them!” McCain said, rais­ing his voice as he urged sen­a­tors to reach for the comity of ear­lier times.

At the White House, though, Trump wasted no time in declar­ing a win and slam­ming the Democrats anew.

“I’m very happy to an­nounce that, with zero of the Democrats’ votes, the mo­tion to pro­ceed on health care has just passed. And now we move for­ward to­ward truly great health care for the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” Trump said. “This was a big step. I want to thank Se­na­tor John McCain - very brave man.”

At its most ba­sic, the Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tion is aimed at un­do­ing Oba­macare’s un­pop­u­lar man­dates for most peo­ple to carry in­sur­ance and busi­nesses to of­fer it. The GOP would re­peal Oba­macare taxes and un­wind an ex­pan­sion of the Med­i­caid pro­gram for the poor, the dis­abled and nurs­ing home res­i­dents The re­sult would be 20 mil­lion to 30 mil­lion peo­ple los­ing in­sur­ance over a decade, de­pend­ing on the ver­sion of the bill.

The GOP leg­is­la­tion has polled abysmally, while Oba­macare it­self has grown steadily more pop­u­lar. Yet most Repub­li­cans ar­gue that fail­ing to de­liver on their prom­ises to pass re­pealand-re­place leg­is­la­tion would be worse than pass­ing an un­pop­u­lar bill, be­cause it would ex­pose the GOP as un­able to gov­ern de­spite con­trol­ling ma­jori­ties in the House, Se­nate and White House.

C-SPAN2 VIA AP

In this im­age from video pro­vided by Se­nate Tele­vi­sion, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. speaks on the floor of the Se­nate on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton, Tues­day. McCain re­turned to Congress for the first time since be­ing di­ag­nosed with brain cancer.

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