Before Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) cast the deciding vote to kill the Senate’s effort to repeal Obamacare early Friday morning, he put on a dramatic show for onlookers, willfully ignoring pleas from his Republican colleagues on the Senate floor.
As he walked to the Senate floor to vote, McCain said he’d made his decision but gave no indication of how he would vote, simply telling reporters to “watch the show.” Once on the floor, it became clearer that McCain was prepared to vote down the “skinny repeal” bill after voicing his concern about passing it Thursday evening.
On the Senate floor, McCain’s colleague from Arizona, Sen. Jeff Flake, was sent to chat with him first, and after that appeared to be useless, Vice President Mike Pence tried to win McCain’s support for the legislation.
McCain also spoke with a group of Democrats huddled on the Senate floor, reportedly telling them that he would vote down the bill.
“Let’s get this over with,” he told the Democrats, according to senators who spoke with Politico. “I really want to do NDAA.”
As the Senate waited for the vote to take place, McCain walked off the Senate floor to take a call from President Donald Trump himself, Politico reported.
After Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) already cast votes against the bill, McCain strode back into the Senate floor to reveal his final decision. McCain walked over to the Senate clerk, not far from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KU), gave a thumbs down, and said “no.” His vote was met with an audible gasp in the Senate chamber as the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare went down in flames.
McCain had returned to the Senate earlier in the week after being diagnosed with brain cancer to vote in favor of proceeding to debate on Obamacare repeal. Without his presence in the Capitol this week, the vote on Friday would never have taken place. But after he cast a vote allowing Senate Republicans to proceed, he delivered a blistering speech blasting GOP leaders’ process and calling for bipartisanship.
After his decisive vote, McCain released a statement echoing the concerns he laid out in his speech. He slammed the Senate’s rushed process to repeal Obamacare and calling for the Senate to consider repeal and replace through the regular process. He also said that House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) comments on his chamber’s commitment to a conference committee were not enough to ease concerns that the House could just pass the Senate’s bare-bones bill without attempting to agree on comprehensive legislation.
Read McCain’s full statement:
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. 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. 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.
I’ve stated time and time again that 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 that has led to Obamacare’s collapse, including in my home state of Arizona where premiums are skyrocketing and health care providers are fleeing the marketplace. 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. We must do the hard work our citizens expect of us and deserve.