Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell failed to garner the support needed to pass the motion to proceed on the watered-down version of the Obamacare repeal bill just after 1:30 a.m. Friday morning.
Three Republicans — Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine — opted to join the 48 Democrats who voted against the measure.
Its failure comes as a devastating blow to McConnell, who struggled to get members of his party to come to a consensus on replacement language. After months of negotiations, GOP lawmakers were unable to reach an agreement on key provisions, including how to handle Medicaid cuts in expansion states and whether Planned Parenthood should be defunded.
The “skinny repeal” — which aimed to repeal the aspects of the Affordable Care Act all factions of the conference agreed upon while leaving large portions in tact — was a last-ditch effort by leadership, who hoped to use the bill as a vehicle to conference with the lower chamber. Despite McConnell having long been lauded as a legislative wizard, his powers of persuasion fell short with the trio of Republicans, all of whom were vocal about their grievances with the process used to construct the bill.
It became evident shortly after midnight leadership was struggling to convince hesitant members to get on board. While an increasingly-frustrated looking McConnell huddled with Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn on the chamber floor, Vice President Mike Pence partook in a lengthy discussion with McCain in an attempt to coax the Arizona Republican to vote for the measure.
Following its failure, an emotional McConnell expressed his disappointment GOP lawmakers were unable to deliver on their top campaign promise.
“From skyrocketing costs to plummeting choices and collapsing markets, our constituents have suffered through an awful lot under Obamacare. We thought they deserved better,” he said in his closing remarks on the floor. “It’s why I, and many of my colleagues, did as we promised and voted to repeal this failed law. We told our constituents we would vote that way. When the moment came, most of us did. We kept our commitments.”
McCain — who flew in from Arizona after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer earlier this week — told reporters “I thought it was the right vote” while exiting the Capitol.
Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said McCain’s decision caught him off guard, telling reporters he’s frustrated with the outcome, but open to taking a bipartisan approach in the future if Democrats are open to working across the aisle.
“Obviously I thought he was going to vote yes — I’ve been working all evening to set up Graham-Cassidy amendment to go onto the conference report,” he said. “We thought we had it in a good place, very good place, fantastic place, so I’m very disappointed.”
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