In a major setback to President Donald Trump, the United States Senate on Friday failed to repeal and replace the landmark Obamacare bill as three key Republican lawmakers, including Senator John McCain, scuttled the measure.
Repeal and replace of Affordable Healthcare Act, popular as Obamacare, has been Trump’s major electoral promise.
While Trump succeeded in getting the Senate to vote for a debate on Obamacare early this week, all efforts of his party to repeal the healthcare of his predecessor has failed so far, mainly due to the opposition of some of his own Senators.
In a dramatic on Thursday night vote, Senator McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee joined two of his other Republican colleagues -- Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski -- along with all the 48 Senators of the opposition Democratic party to vote 49-51 against the proposal to overhaul the 2010 health care law.
The ruling Republicans have 51 Senators in the 100-member Senate.
The so-called “skinny” repeal, which would have scaled back some of the more controversial provisions, is the third failed attempt by the Trump administration to repeal Obamacare.
It would have resulted in some 16 million people losing their health insurance by 2026, with insurance premiums jumping by 20 per cent, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
“This is clearly a disappointing moment,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor.
He pulled the bill from the floor thereafter. Within minutes Trump tweeted to express his deep disappointment.
“Three Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down. As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!” Trump tweeted.
Vice President Mike Pence was awaiting to vote in case of a tie, as had happened in the past. However, he did not get a chance as three of his own party Senators joined hands with the Democrats.
Meanwhile, McCain, who was recently diagnosed brain cancer, defended his decision and said, “From the beginning, I have believed that Obamacare should be repealed and replaced with a solution that increases competition, lowers costs, and improves care for the American people. The so-called ‘skinny repeal’ amendment the Senate voted on today would not accomplish those goals,” he said.
“While the amendment would have repealed some of Obamacare’s most burdensome regulations, it offered no replacement to actually reform our health care system and deliver affordable, quality health care to our citizens,” he added.
The speaker’s statement that the House would be ‘willing’ to go to conference does not ease my concern that this shell of a bill could be taken up and passed at any time,” McCain said.
“It’s time to turn the page. We are not celebrating. We are relieved,” said Senator Charles Schumer, Senate Minority Leader.
“A disastrous bill to take away health care from millions of hard working people, and raise the costs for nearly everyone has been defeated,” said Congressman Ro Khanna, in a statement.
“This is another powerful example of democracy at work and thank you to all who shared their stories, called my office, and raised their voices on how important the ACA is to them and their families. I will continue to advocate for improvements on ways people access and pay for health care, including Medicare for All,” he said.
Senator Ben Cardin, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said that it would have been disastrous for the country if this so-called ‘Skinny Repeal’ bill were ever to become law.
“It’s time to move on. The American people want us to work together. We should move forward with tangible improvements to our current health system and work to stabilise insurance markets,” Cardin said.
Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters