Breaking News

Senate votes to advance GOP healthcare reform, first GOP bill fails

Allen Cone  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., (C) flanked by Sen John Cornyn, R-Texas, (R) and Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wy., (L) speaks on the Republican healthcare plan following a caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C, on Tuesday. The Senate voted to consider the bill with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a tie to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI
| License Photo
2 of 2
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, hugs Sen. John McCain's wife, Cindy McCain, after a Senate vote on the healthcare bill. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI
| License Photo
The U.S. Senate narrowly voted Tuesday to move ahead with efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with only Republicans supporting the measure, but soon after rejected a GOP bill that would have accomplished the long-held GOP goal.
The rejected bill was a modified version of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's bill, a comprehensive effort to replace the ACA. It needed 60 votes to overcome parliamentary barriers but fell short, with only 43 in favor and 57 opposed, including nine Republicans.
The strong objection to the McConnell plan by many in his own party indicates Republicans are still far from a consensus over how to replace the ACA with a more GOP-friendly healthcare bill.
The rejection of McConnell's plan came soon after Republicans narrowly won a vote to pursue debates on a repeal and replace plan. The vote was tied 50-50 and Vice President Mike Pence was needed to cast the tie-breaker.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell had scheduled a procedural vote even though it was uncertain what that replacement might look like. The senators voted on proceeding to debate the bill with numerous amendments certain from extremes of the political spectrum.
Voting no on whether to debate the repeal were two moderate Republicans -- Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
GOP senators who opposed the latest Senate proposal but backed the motion were Rand Paul of Kentucky, Dean Heller of Nevada, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mike Lee of Utah and Ro Johnson of Wisconsin.
The procedural vote, called a motion to proceed, occurred after the Senate convened at noon. The successful voted allowed the chamber to begin debates on whether to repeal and replace the ACA with the House-passed healthcare bill -- the American Health Care Act -- which would later be swapped out for a Senate version.
The House and Senate plans scrap the financial penalty for individuals who don't comply with the mandate to have insurance and for employers to provide affordable coverage.
Both plans reduce Medicaid coverage, which moderates oppose, and keep some of the regulations in the ACA -- known as Obamacare -- which conservatives don't want. Millions of people would lose their health insurance by 2026, according to Congressional Budget Office -- 22 million in the Senate plan and 23 million in the House proposal. The House narrowly approved the plan in March.
A key difference in the Senate bill is the additional taxes on wealthy people would be retained but it also included the option for bare-bones health plans.
At least 50 senators needed to approve the procedural vote. and Republicans hold 52 seats. All of the 48 Democrats voted no.
McCain made a dramatic return to the Senate on Tuesday in time to cast his yes vote after taking time off for medical reasons. Doctors discovered a brain tumor during surgery to remove a blood clot July 14 in Arizona and is taking time off to consider medical treatments.
The 80-year-old senator received a standing ovation, was embraced by his colleagues from both parties and spoke to the chamber.
His appearance was reminiscent of when Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts returned to the Senate in July 2008 while battling brain cancer to vote on Medicare legislation. Kennedy died in August 2009.
McCain, who had a 2- to 3-inch scar over his left eye, said he would not support the "bill as it is today. It's a shell of a bill right now." He urged a bipartisan effort, including hearings.
McCain urged his colleagues to "stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths" on radio, television and the Internet who oppose compromise. "To hell with them!" McCain said.
He also said members are Congress are not "subordinates" to the president and instead are "equals."
After the vote, President Donald Trump thanked McCain for making the trip from Arizona and called him "a very brave man" during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon at the White House.
Trump said the vote "was a big step."
"I'm very happy to announce that with zero of the Democrats' votes, the motion to proceed on healthcare has moved past and now we move forward toward truly great healthcare for the American people. We look forward to that," Trump said.
Before the vote, a group of protesters shouted "kill the bill'" and "shame" from the Senate's galleries.

No comments