GOP fails to kill ACA as McCain rejects ‘skinny repeal’; McConnell to ‘move on’
WASHINGTON — Dealing a serious blow to President Donald Trump’s agenda, the Senate early Friday rejected a measure to repeal parts of former President Barack Obama’s health care law after a night of high suspense in the U.S. Capitol.
Unable to pass even a so-called “skinny repeal,” it was unclear if Senate Republicans could advance any health bill despite seven years of promises to repeal “Obamacare.”
“This is clearly a disappointing moment,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “I regret that our efforts were not enough, this time.”
Trump responded on Twitter: “3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down. As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!”
“It’s time to move on,” he said.
McConnell put the health bill on hold and announced that the Senate would move onto other legislation next week.
A key vote to defeat the measure was cast by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who returned to the Senate this week after receiving a diagnosis of brain cancer. In an impassioned speech the day he returned, McCain had called for bipartisanship on major issues of national concern, and a return to the “regular order” of legislating by committee.
Three Republicans joined with all Democrats to reject the amendment, which would have repealed a mandate that most individuals get health insurance and suspended a requirement that large companies provide coverage to their employees. It would have also delayed a tax on medical devices and denied funding to Planned Parenthood for a year.
The final vote was 49-51. Republicans Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine joined McCain in voting no.
The amendment was a last resort for Senate Republicans to pass something — anything — to trigger negotiations with the House.
“It’s time to turn the page,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York. “We are not celebrating. We are relieved.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said in a statement the Trump administration would pursue its health care goals through regulation. “This effort will continue,” Price said.
Buoyed by a signal from House Speaker Paul Ryan, McConnell had introduced a pared-down health care bill late Thursday that he hoped would keep alive Republican ambitions to repeal “Obamacare.”
McConnell had called his measure the Health Care Freedom Act. It was not intended to become law, but to open a path for a House-Senate conference committee to try to work out comprehensive legislation Congress could pass and send to Trump.
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