WASHINGTON, D.C. - It was quite possibly the most dramatic and consequential thumbs down in all of American history. After listening to a final pitch by Republican leadership, talking about the vote with Vice President Mike Pence, and taking a phone call from President Donald Trump, Senator John McCain slowly strolled into the Senate chamber, got the attention of the clerk, and cast the decisive vote on the Republican bill to repeal Obamacare.
McCain joined fellow Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski to vote against their own party's 'skinny repeal' of the Affordable Care Act early Friday morning. The bill failed to pass 51-49.
Shortly after the Senate adjourned for the night, McCain released a statement explaining why he chose to vote the way he did.
“The United States Senate has a rich history of comity, trust and bipartisanship. Sadly, those essential qualities have been absent in recent years and we have seen the world’s greatest deliberative body succumb to partisan rancor and gridlock. Our inability to address the pressing health care needs of the American people with meaningful and lasting reform is inexcusable.
The vote last night presents the Senate with an opportunity to start fresh. It is now time to return to regular order with input from all of our members – Republicans and Democrats – and bring a bill to the floor of the Senate for amendment and debate. I have great faith in the ability of the Senator from Tennessee, Lamar Alexander, the Senator from Washington, Patty Murray, and others to work together in a bipartisan fashion to craft a bill that increases competition, lowers costs, and improves care for the American people. I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to trust each other, stop the political gamesmanship, and put the health care needs of the American people first. We can do this."
- Senator John McCain
President Trump was obviously disappointed with the outcome and he expressed that disappointment on his favorite medium, Twitter, shortly after the vote was finalized.
By Friday morning, however, Trump shifted away from criticizing the vote, and turned his attention to the process. Now that the repeal effort will likely have to be done through the traditional legislative process, and not budget reconciliation, it will take 60 votes for passage. Unless Senate Republicans choose to enact the nuclear option, which would drop the threshold down to a simple majority.
It's hard to tell what direction the health care debate will take now, but Congress is going to have to figure it out. And for the first time in seemingly forever, the door to a bipartisan solution may now be open, even if it's only a crack.