Se­nate re­jects mea­sure to partly re­peal Oba­macare

Miami Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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