Like a thief in the night, Republicans tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but it took a maverick to stop what Democrats and others have called a mean attempt to deprive millions of Americans of health care.
Just before 2 a.m. Friday, John McCain joined two fellow Republican senators in voting against a so-called “skinny” repeal of the law that’s commonly known as Obamacare, sinking the GOP’s latest attempt to do away with former President Barack Obama’s signature legislation.
The moment was high drama, as McCain took to the Senate floor, stood before Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and gave a thumbs down, sending shock waves throughout the gallery.
“This is clearly a disappointing moment,” McConnell said. “Our constituents have suffered through an awful lot under Obamacare. We thought they deserved better. It’s why I and many of my colleagues did as we promised and voted to repeal this failed law.
“We told our constituents we would vote that way,” he said. “And when the moment came, when the moment came, most of us did. It’s time to move on.”
President Donald Trump, who had tried to persuade the three Republican senators who held out, tweeted that the trio and “48 Democrats let the American people down. As I said from the beginning, let Obamacare implode, then deal. Watch!”
Republicans McCain, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine joined Democrats to oppose the measure. But it was McCain, known for his reputation as a maverick unafraid to buck his own party, who held the proverbial trump card.
The Arizona senator had voted for a motion to proceed to the bill Tuesday after returning to Capitol Hill following surgery for a brain tumor, chastising lawmakers and urging Republicans to work with Democrats on a bill that would satisfy all Americans.
He appeared to be sending a strong signal at the time that he would not favor any proposal that didn’t include bipartisan efforts to resolve the ongoing health care dispute. The Congressional Budget Office says a repeal of the law would result in the loss of health coverage for as many as 32 million Americans.
Multiple Republican colleagues, including Vice President Mike Pence, engaged in animated conversations Friday with McCain who has long cherished his reputation as a maverick, according to CNN.
At one point before the final vote, Trump called Pence, who handed the phone to McCain. The call, just off the Senate floor, was brief and ultimately unsuccessful.
“I think John is rightfully upset with the process and whatever he does, he’s earned the right to do it,” said South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a good friend of McCain’s.