Senate rejects measure to partly repeal Obamacare
down. As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!” he tweeted.
In a dramatic showdown on the Senate floor, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., stunned his colleagues by joining two other Republicans to reject the latest attempt to rewrite the ACA. The Arizona Republican, diagnosed with brain cancer, returned to Washington on Tuesday and delivered a stirring address calling for a bipartisan approach to overhauling the 2010 health-care law, while criticizing the process that produced the current legislation.
It was a speech that laid the groundwork for Friday’s dramatic vote.
The GOP bill was voted down 51 to 49 — all 48 members of the Democratic caucus joined McCain and Sens. Susan Collin, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, to block the legislation. McCain, scarred from recent surgery to remove a blood clot that unearthed his cancer, rebuffed a last-minute appeal by Vice President Mike Pence during a direct exchange on the Senate floor.
McCain emerged from his talks with Pence at 1:29 a.m., approached the Senate clerk and gave a thumbs down — casting the third GOP “no” vote. His decision sparked stunned gasps and some applause.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and his leadership deputies stood watching, grim-faced and despondent. McConnell had hoped to approve the new, narrower rewrite of the health-care law at some point Friday, after facing dozens of amendments from Democrats. But the GOP defections left McConnell without a clear path forward.
“Our only regret is that we didn’t achieve what we hoped to accomplish,” McConnell said after the failed vote. Red-faced and sounding dejected, he pulled the entire legislation from consideration, set up votes on nominations that will begin Monday and gave no indication of what might happen next regarding health care.
In a statement after the vote, McCain said Congress “must now return to the correct way of legislating and send the bill back to committee, hold hearings, receive input from both sides of the aisle, heed the recommendations of the nation’s governors, and produce a bill that finally delivers affordable health care for the American people.”
Senators in both parties said they are ready to quickly launch work on a new plan.
“Maybe this had to happen to actually begin to have a conversation,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., who had tried and failed to broker a previous bipartisan compromise.
“Clearly this is a difficult problem, because the president challenged us to replace, not just repeal. And so once you decide that you want to replace, not just repeal, it becomes more difficult,” he added.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, RTenn., who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee that under normal circumstances would play a central role in crafting a new healthcare bill, said Friday’s setback “leaves an urgent problem that I am committed to addressing.”
Democrats said they hoped any new attempt to shore up the health-care system would begin in the Senate HELP Committee, considered a bipartisan bright spot in the Senate, given that it wrote a bipartisan education reform bill that passed last year.
Sen. Thomas Carper, DDel., said Congress needs “to turn the page and stabilize the exchanges.” He said Democrats will push Congress to require the Trump administration to enforce the current individual and employer mandates and fully fund current cost-sharing arrangements.
The federal government is slated to spend roughly $7 billion this year, and $10 billion in 2018, to help pay for consumers out-of-pocket health costs, but administration officials have not indicated if they will supply the funds after the end of this month.