The Republicans’ plan to destroy Obamacare via a “skinny repeal” bill failed early on Friday morning when three Republicans — Susan Collins, John McCain, and Lisa Murkowski — voted against the measure. It appears that the GOP’s years-long campaign to undo the Affordable Care Act is dead, for now.
For hours on Thursday night, it seemed that the Senate was poised to pass the bill, which would leave millions uninsured. House Speaker Paul Ryan had offered assurances that the legislation would merely create a Senate-House conference on repealing Obamacare, but there was no guarantee that the House wouldn’t enact the law. With lawmakers assembled on the Senate floor, the GOP leadership made a last-ditch effort to convince the wavering Republicans to switch their votes. Those staying up late to watch on C-Span resorted to body-language interpretation and attempts at lip-reading. Apparently McCain was aware of this, because he clearly mouthed an expletive during a jovial discussion with Democrats.
Ultimately Collins and Murkowski — the only two Republicans who voted against starting debate on Obamacare repeal earlier this week — were joined by McCain, who cast the decisive vote:
Later McCain explained in a statement that, as he’s stated several times, he intends to repeal and replace Obamacare, but he wants to do it the old-fashioned way:
In a speech on the Senate floor immediately after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said “It is time to move on.” He pulled the health legislation and said the Senate would move on to votes on nominations next week.
“Our only regret is that we didn’t achieve what we hoped to accomplish,” McConnell said. He claimed the problem was that Democrats refused to get involved in the process (though he recently used the idea of bipartisan talks as a threat against his own members), and said the left must be pleased that his push to kill Obamacare failed.
“We are not celebrating. We are relieved,” Schumer responded.
President Trump’s initial reaction was surprisingly restrained, but then again he’s always advocated for letting Obamacare implode (and Americans suffer) to improve the politics surrounding repeal.
This story was updated throughout.