The resounding Senate crash of the seven-year Republican drive to scrap the Obama health care law has led to finger-pointing but also has left the party with wounded leaders and no evident way ahead on an issue that won’t go away.
In an astonishing cliff-hanger, the GOP-run Senate voted 51-49 on Friday to reject Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s last ditch attempt to sustain their drive to dismantle President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul with a starkly trimmed-down bill.
The vote, which concluded shortly before 2 a.m. EDT, was a blistering defeat for President Donald Trump and McConnell, R-Ky.
“They should have approved health care last night,” Trump said Friday during a speech in Brentwood, New York. “But you can’t have everything,” he added, seemingly shrugging off one of his biggest legislative setbacks.
Trump reiterated his threat to “let Obamacare implode,” an outcome he could hasten by steps such as halting federal payments to help insurers reduce out-of-pocket costs for lower-earning consumers.
Senate Democrats were joined in opposition by three Republicans — Maine’s Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Arizona’s John McCain. The 80-year-old McCain, just diagnosed with brain cancer, had returned to the Capitol three days earlier to provide a vote that temporarily kept the measure alive, only to deliver the coup de grace Friday.
“Republicans in the Senate will NEVER win if they don’t go to a 51 vote majority NOW. They look like fools and are just wasting time,” Trump tweeted Saturday. He said the “Republican Senate must get rid of 60 vote NOW! It is killing the R Party.” But on the crucial vote, a simple majority of 51 votes, including a tie-breaker by Vice President Mike Pence, was all that was needed.
“Hello, he only needed 51 in the health care bill and couldn’t do it,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., helpfully reminded reporters.
Earlier in the week, Republican defections sank GOP efforts to scrap the 2010 law. One would have erased Obama’s statute and replaced it with a more constricted government health care role, and the other would have annulled the law and given Congress two years to replace it.
The measure that fell Friday was narrower and included a repeal of Obama’s unpopular tax penalties on people who don’t buy policies and on employers who don’t offer coverage to workers. McConnell designed it as a legislative vehicle the Senate could approve and begin talks with the House on a compromise,…