Fifty-one senators vote against measure to roll back handful of elements of Affordable Care Act
WASHINGTON—The Republican effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act collapsed early Friday when a slimmed-down Senate measure to pare back selected pieces of the 2010 health-care law failed, undermining the GOP leaders’ efforts to deliver on a longtime campaign promise.
Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) cast one of three GOP no votes that sank Senate Republicans’ latest effort to roll back a handful of elements of the law. GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska also joined with Democrats to block the measure in a 49-51 vote. The bill’s failure exposed the difficulty Senate Republicans faced in trying to corral 50 votes for any legislation making changes to the ACA, whether modest or major.
Friday’s vote leaves Republicans without any clear next step in their monthslong effort to roll back the ACA and with no significant legislative accomplishment during President Donald Trump’s first seven months in office.
“This is clearly a disappointing moment,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said on the Senate floor moments after the vote. “I regret that our efforts were simply not enough this time.”
Days earlier, Mr. McConnell had pulled off a come-from-behind victory to begin debate on the bill, boosted by Mr. McCain’s return from Arizona after recently being diagnosed with brain cancer. But Mr. McCain’s defection Friday morning helped bring down the bill, despite an intense lobbying effort to win him over by GOP leaders.
“One of the major failures of Obamacare was that it was rammed through Congress by Democrats on a strict-party line basis without a single Republican vote. We should not make the mistakes of the past,” Mr. McCain said in a statement after the vote, urging GOP leaders to hold hearings and solicit Democratic ideas.
The defeat left Senate Republicans with little to show for their weeks of difficult deliberations. Although the House overcame a setback to pass a sweeping health-care overhaul in May, the Senate GOP’s narrow majority and deep internal divisions made such a comeback difficult.
Mr. McConnell said after the vote that it was now Democrats’ turn to propose fixes to the ACA. “It’s time for our friends on the other side to tell us what they have in mind and we’ll see how the American people feel about their ideas,” Mr. McConnell said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said Democrats were ready to work with Republicans to shore up the health-care law. “Obamacare was hardly perfect. It did a lot of good things, but it needs improvement,” Mr. Schumer said.