After being blindsided by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who reneged on his campaign promises to lead the repeal of Obamacare and aligned with the Democrats early Friday on a vote that killed a partial repeal, the GOP may now be setting up a plan to simply wait for the former president’s signature law to implode.
It already is in many locations, with premiums skyrocketing, insurance companies fleeing, and health-care costs stunning high.
“I sadly feel a great many Americans will feel betrayed, that they were lied to, and that sentiment will not be unjustified,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
“You cannot campaign against Obamacare and then vote for Obamacare,” he said.
Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana echoed Cruz’s comments: “Obviously I thought [McCain] was going to vote yes – I’ve been working all evening to set up Graham-Cassidy amendment to go onto the conference report.”
The House had approved an Obamacare repair plan, but in the Senate after a narrow 51-50 decision to discuss it, one plan to just repeal Obamacare was defeated, and then early Friday a partial repeal also fell – because of McCain.
“I regret that our efforts were simply not enough, this time,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said right after the conclusion of the vote. “This is clearly a disappointing moment.”
The GOP effort to repeal the ACA, also known as “Obamacare” has been ongoing for the past seven years. There were multiple votes previously that accomplished that, but they all came when Obama was president and members of Congress knew they would be vetoed.
Republicans thought they had the votes to move a plan forward and get the discussion going. But then McCain approached a group of Democrats on the Senate floor and told them he would be voting “no” on the Obamacare repeal measure before the official tally; he embraced Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, and was seemingly jubilant among the group of Democrats.
McCain is hugging Democrats. McConnell just walked off the floor.
— Binyamin Appelbaum (@BCAppelbaum) July 28, 2017
He claimed the change didn’t go far enough to reform existing law:
Skinny repeal fell short because it fell short of our promise to repeal & replace Obamacare w/ meaningful reform https://t.co/tZISIvccOO
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) July 28, 2017
It was only last year McCain was campaigning as the lawmaker “leading the fight to stop Obamacare.”
The vote was extremely tight, with three Republicans joining all 48 Democratic senators to vote-down the measure 51 to 49. McCain was joined by Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska as Republican dissenters against the proposal.
Former Republican Governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, joined those expressing frustration.
Why elect Republicans who vote with Dems to keep failed Obamacare? U don’t have to love @realDonaldTrump but why punish American people?
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) July 28, 2017
Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky, also expressed disappointment.
“The Senate fell one vote short tonight, which is disappointing. I intend to keep fighting for repeal,” Paul tweeted in the aftermath of the vote.
From the Democrat side, including many of the senators who lined up in a Democrats-only vote to adopt Obamacare and impose government-mandated insurance purchase on the American public years ago, there was praise for the three GOP senators who, according to President Trump, let the country down.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer heaped praise on the turncoats, tweeting “An update on last night. First: I want to thank Sens. Murkowski, Collins, and McCain for showing such courage, strength, and principle.”
Trump insisted Obamacare will eventually “implode” regardless.
3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down. As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 28, 2017
The White House was heavily focused on convincing McCain and the two other Republican senators to vote “yes,” but they were unswayed despite personal attempts at persuasion from Vice President Mike Pence.
The defeat of “skinny repeal,” officially known as the Health Care Freedom Act comes after weeks of similar Obamacare repeal measures were shot-down in the Senate, including a full repeal.
The “skinny repeal” measure would have cut federal funds for Planned Parenthood, increased federal grants to community health centers, and made it less difficult for states to waive minimum federal requirements for health insurance plans, among other measures.
The Congressional Budget Office claimed that the bill would increase the amount of Americans without health insurance by an additional 15 million, while also reducing the federal deficit by $178.8 billion over the next decade.
Democrats were chortling.
“I was trying not to jump up and down and smile,” said Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware.
Feinstein said, “This failed vote on the latest Republican bill should finally break the fever and convince every senator that the only path forward on health care is to scrap their repeal efforts and work with Democrats in an open process to improve the Affordable Care Act.”
Conservative groups were appalled by the outcome of the vote, and outlined that Obamacare was still a disaster for the American people.
Heritage Foundation President Dr. Edwin Feuler, for example, said in a statement that, “Obamacare cannot be fixed or bailed out. The health law’s mandates, insurance regulations, taxes, and expansion of government go too deep. No partial effort to address these problems can truly free Americans from the high insurance costs and limited choice they now face.”
Regarding what comes next, some Republicans insisted they would continue their efforts, but Mitch McConnell signaled that he has no plans to pursue a repeal.
“This is clearly a disappointment,” McConnell said. “It’s time to move on.”
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., was less pessimistic, and told the Washington Examiner that lawmakers will continue to work on a solution to Obamacare.
“We continue to work on two different plans with our Senate colleagues,” he said, claiming the next bill could get to 51 votes.
Meadows also said on Fox that President Trump is joining the effort, claiming “the president is already engaged this morning” in continuing to fight for a repeal.
“Let’s bring up the clean repeal in the House, let’s show we have the votes for clean repeal, and that we can actually keep our word with what we told the voters last year,” Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio added.