GOP dealt a stiff blow as Senate rejects Obamacare repeal
UNITED STATES: US President Donald Trump has threatened to let Obamacare ’’implode’’ after the Republican repeal bill’s stunning defeat in the US Capitol.
Dealing a serious blow to Trump’s agenda, the Senate yesterday rejected the measure to repeal parts of former president Barack Obama’s healthcare law, after a night of high suspense.
A key vote to defeat the measure was cast by Republican Senator John McCain, who returned to the Senate this week after receiving a diagnosis of brain cancer.
He and two other Republicans joined with all Democrats to reject the amendment, which would have repealed a mandate that most individuals get health insurance and suspended a requirement that large companies provide coverage to their employees. It would have also delayed a tax on medical devices and denied funding to Planned Parenthood for a year.
The final vote was 49-51. Republicans Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine joined McCain in voting no.
The amendment was a last resort for Senate Republicans to pass something – anything – to trigger negotiations with the House.
Taking to Twitter just minutes after the vote, Trump said: ‘‘3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down. As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!’’
‘‘This is clearly a disappointing moment,’’ said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He put the healthcare bill on hold.
Buoyed by a signal from House Speaker Paul Ryan, McConnell had introduced a pared-down healthcare bill that he hoped would keep alive Republican ambitions to repeal ‘‘Obamacare’’.
‘‘It’s time to turn the page,’’ said Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York. ‘‘We are not celebrating. We are relieved.’’
McConnell had called his measure the Health Care Freedom Act. It was not intended to become law, but to open a path for a HouseSenate conference committee to try to work out comprehensive legislation that Congress could pass and send to Trump.
The measure would have repealed the unpopular Affordable Care Act requiring most people to have health insurance or risk a fine from the Internal Revenue Service. A similar requirement on larger employers would be suspended for eight years.
Additionally, it would have denied funding to Planned Parenthood for a year, and suspended for three years a tax on medical device manufacturers.
States could seek waivers from consumer protections in the Obama-era law, and individuals could increase the amount they contribute to tax-sheltered health savings accounts for medical expenses.
Ryan seemingly opened a path for McConnell earlier by signalling a willingness to negotiate a more comprehensive bill with the Senate.
Some Republican senators had been concerned the House would simply pass the ‘‘skinny bill’’ and send it to Trump. That would have sent a shockwave through health insurance markets, spiking premiums.
Ryan sent senators a statement saying that if ‘‘moving forward’’ required talks with the Senate, the House would be ‘‘willing’’ to do so. But shortly afterwards, his words received varied responses from three GOP senators who had insisted on a clear commitment from Ryan.
‘‘Not sufficient,’’ said McCain, who returned to the Capitol on Wednesday to provide a pivotal vote that allowed the Senate to begin debating the healthcare bill, a paramount priority for Trump and the GOP.
Insurance company lobby group America’s Health Insurance Plans wrote to Senate leaders saying that ending Obama’s requirement that people buy insurance without strengthening insurance markets would produce ‘‘higher premiums, fewer choices for consumers and fewer people covered next year’’. – Reuters, AP
Senator John McCain was influential in the vote that rejected repealing parts of Obamacare. The 80-year-old is battling brain cancer.