WASHINGTON - In a major, late-night political drama, the U.S. Senate on Friday voted against a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The legislation was shot down by a slim majority - 51 votes against, 49 votes in favor - thanks to the opposition of three Republican senators: Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and most notably, John McCain of Arizona.
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This is a blow to President Donald Trump and the Republican Party, which has been waging efforts to repeal Obamacare for the past seven years.
The bill, which was dubbed "skinny repeal" for being a more moderate version of earlier bills meant to repeal and replace Obamacare, was introduced to the members of the Senate only at 10 P.M. on Thursday, Washington time, meaning that senators had only two hours to learn and discuss it before voting, an unprecedented distortion of the voting process for such a consequential legislation.
A number of Republican senators said that they strongly opposed this legislation, which the Congressional Budget Office estimated would lead to more than 16 million people losing their health insurance over the next decade. Yet at the same time, they said they would vote in favor of it, in order to create a "conference" debate with the House of Representatives over a new, improved health care plan.
Yet the three Republican senators who refused to go along with this plan - Collins, Murkowski and McCain - stopped the plan from reaching that stage. McCain's vote was particularly dramatic, since he returned to the Senate two days ago after taking a sick leave in order to receive cancer treatments. The vote on Friday morning was in line with McCain's political identity as a political "maverick" who isn't afraid to vote against party line.