GOP lawmakers' effort to repeal the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, received a devastating blow when three Senate Republicans voted against a so-called "skinny repeal."
Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, John McCain of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska bucked their own party pressure and voted against what was considered a last-ditch effort to advance an ACA repeal plan through the chamber.
The skinny repeal bill would have eliminated the ACA's individual mandate and suspended the employer mandate for six years. It would also have defunded Planned Parenthood for a year, suspended a medical device tax for three years and offered states waivers to opt out of key ACA provisions, The Daily Beast reports.
Several Senate Republicans stated that they would only vote for the skinny repeal with the assurance that it would not be the final version of an ACA repeal. The legislation was expected to go to conference and be further negotiated by both the House and Senate. McCain was reportedly unconvinced that the House Speaker, GOP Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, would not just have his chamber vote on the skinny repeal and send it to President Donald Trump's desk.
Collins and Murkowski had been vocally opposed to the original GOP healthcare plan, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, according to CBS News. They had also opposed a repeal-only plan. They were the only two Senate Republicans to vote against bringing up the GOP repeal plan up for debate. Both have cited concerns about how repealing key ACA provisions would impact the health care markets and objected to the GOP's secretive process of crafting a replacement plan.
The Senate Majority Leader, GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, needed 52 votes to advance the skinny repeal through budget reconciliation. When McCain joined Collins and Murkowski to vote against the measure, McConnell's plans and Trump's legislative agenda were dashed.
"Yes, this is a disappointment," McConnell said on the Senate floor, according to The Daily Beast. "A disappointment indeed ... Our friends on the other side decided early on they didn't want to engage with us in a serious way to help those suffering under Obamacare."
The Senate Minority Leader, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, said he was relieved after the vote.
"We are not celebrating," Schumer said, according to Axios. "We are relieved -- that millions and millions of people who would have been so drastically hurt by the three proposals put forward will at least retain their health care."
Murkowski, while leaving the Capitol, told reporters "I'm just going to allow my vote to speak for itself. But very difficult. Very difficult," according to The Daily Beast.
Collins released a statement urging for a bipartisan compromise to reforming the U.S. healthcare system.
"We need to reconsider our approach," Collins said, according to CBS News. "The ACA is flawed and in portions of the country is near collapse. Rather than engaging in partisan exercises, Republicans and Democrats should work together to address these very serious problems."
McCain released a statement asserting that the skinny repeal was not a valid option and that he wanted McConnell to abandon the budget reconciliation process and resume regular order.
"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 aisle, heed the recommendations of nation's governors, and produce a bill that finally delivers affordable health care for the American people," McCain said.
Trump took to social media to blast Collins, McCain and Murkowski. The president asserted that he would allow for the health care system to buckle and then return to the legislative priority.
"3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down," Trump tweeted out on July 28. "As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!"
On July 28, former President Barack Obama congratulated the grassroots activism that had defended the ACA, NBC News reports.
Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis stated on July 28 that the ACA was intact "because of everyone who mobilized, organized and made their voices heard."
Lewis added that Obama wants both political parties to work together and improve the ACA.
"President Obama still believes that it is possible for Congress to demonstrate the necessary bipartisanship and political courage to keep delivering on the promise of quality, affordable health insurance for every American," Lewis said.