Senator John McCain killed the last-resort Senate Republican healthcare bill in a surprise vote early Friday morning, voting against a pared-down proposal that Republican leaders released only hours earlier, The Hill reports.
Voting shortly after midnight, McCain – who returned to the Senate on Tuesday after undergoing emergency surgery related to brain cancer – joined GOP Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski in opposing the measure that would have repealed key parts of ObamaCare.
McCain cast the “no” vote two days after a dramatic return to the Senate floor during which he called on his colleagues to work together on major issues such as healthcare reform, which has long been a Senate tradition until the upsurge of partisanship in recent years.
He criticized GOP leaders throughout their internal healthcare deliberations for skipping committee hearings and markups, after Republicans criticized Democrats in 2009 for crafting ObamaCare behind closed doors.
McCain has also emerged this year as one of President Donald Trump’s most outspoken critics in Congress and the late-night healthcare vote cements his status as a maverick, a role he relished earlier in his career when President George W. Bush occupied the White House.
The bare-bones healthcare proposal, dubbed the “skinny” repeal because it left untouched big sections of ObamaCare, would have resulted in 16 more million people being without insurance in a decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
The CBO also estimated that it would increase premiums by 20 percent compared to current law. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed it as a backup proposal after Republicans failed to agree on a bigger repeal that repealed and replaced the pillars of ObamaCare or a repeal-only measure that passed both chambers in 2015.
McConnell appeared almost distraught after McCain’s surprise vote and seemed close to choking up on the floor after falling short of his promise to repeal ObamaCare.
“I regret that our efforts were simply not enough this time. Now, I imagine many of our colleagues on the other side are celebrating. Probably pretty happy about all this. But the American people are hurting, and they need relief.” he said.
McCain’s vote surprised many Republicans including Senator Bill Cassidy, who said he thought the Arizona Republican was in favor of the legislation. Vice President Pence was spotted lobbying McCain on the Senate floor shortly before the crucial vote. He also worked on Collins while other GOP leaders focused on Murkowski, but those efforts fell short.