The Senate voted down a scaled-back ObamaCare repeal bill on Friday in a shocking vote that marks a major defeat for Republican leaders and the seven-year effort to repeal the health law. The Senate voted 49-51 against the so-called “skinny” bill, that would have repealed ObamaCare’s individual and employer mandates and defunded Planned Parenthood, The Hill reports.
The bill was cast by Republicans as a way to keep their repeal hopes alive and get to negotiations with the House, but now it appears that those hopes of repealing ObamaCare have been quashed.
In a speech from the Senate floor early Friday morning after the surprise failed vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that “it is time to move on”.
“What we tried to accomplish for the American people was the right thing for the country. I think the American people are going to regret that we couldn’t find another way forward,” McConnell said.
Senator John McCain provided the crucial vote against the bill, alongside GOP Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. A succession of Republicans attempted to appeal to McCain, as well as Murkowski on the Senate floor while the preceding vote was held open long after it usually would have closed.
Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Jeff Flake, also of Arizona, were among those who went to talk to McCain. “We all wanted to try to get to a positive outcome. It’s very disappointing that we weren’t able to,” Murkowski said after the vote.
McCain said in a statement after the vote that he wanted to go back and use the committee process, while working with Democrats on healthcare.
“We 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 nation’s governors, and produce a bill that finally delivers affordable health care for the American people,” McCain said in the statement.
McConnell invited Democrats to offer their ideas, but he appeared skeptical, saying that “bailing out insurance companies” would not be acceptable. “Now I think it’s appropriate to ask, what are their ideas? It’ll be interesting to see what they suggest as the way forward.” McConnell said.
Democratic requests include providing funding to lower premium for high-cost enrollees, known as “reinsurance,” and guaranteeing key ObamaCare payments known as cost-sharing reductions.
President Donald Trump has threatened to cancel those payments, and early Friday morning appeared to do so again. “As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!” Trump tweeted.
Ahead of the vote, many GOP senators admitted that the measure was not a good policy, but, in a highly unusual situation, said they were voting for it simply to advance the process and set up negotiation with the House on a new bill, in what is known as a conference committee.
Some Republicans harbored fear that a conference committee could fail, and the House could eventually just take up the scaled-down bill and send it to the president. Insurers and many healthcare experts warned that by repealing the mandate to have insurance without a replacement, the bill would significantly destabilize health insurance markets and spike premiums.
The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association warned of “steep premium increases and diminished choices that would make coverage unaffordable and inaccessible”.
The Congressional Budget Office found that the bill would result in 16 million more uninsured people and roughly 20 percent higher premiums, largely from repealing the mandate to have insurance. Republicans pointed out many of those people would choose not to buy insurance, without the mandate.