Senate rejects 'skinny repeal' of ACA; Democrats urge cooperation

By Ray Downs and Sam Howard  |  July 28, 2017 at 1:20 PM
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July 28 (UPI) -- The Republican Party suffered a major loss early Friday after its "skinny repeal" of the Affordable Care Act failed to win enough votes to pass the Senate.

The amendment failed 51-49, with three Republicans joining the Democrats. The three Republicans were Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine and John McCain of Arizona.

"We worked really hard to try to develop a consensus for a better way forward," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said during a speech on the Senate floor after the vote. "This is a disappointment -- a disappointment indeed."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer took the floor to say that although Democrats succeeded in holding off a Republican-led repeal of the current healthcare law, the debate over how to proceed with the country's healthcare system isn't over.

"We are not celebrating," he said. "We are relieved that millions and millions of people who would have been drastically hurt by the three proposals will be able to retain their healthcare."

He added: "Obamacare wasn't perfect. But it did a lot of good things and it needs improvement."

Schumer's counterpart in the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., responded in a news conference later Friday, calling the vote "victorious ... for the American people."

Pelosi, D-Calif., said Murkowski, Collins and McCain acted "courageously" in rejecting the repeal overnight. She also asked House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., to allow lawmakers in committee to discuss potential reforms to improve U.S. healthcare.

President Donald Trump took to Twitter to issue his response.

"3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down. As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!" he tweeted.

But at Pelosi's news conference, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Trump needs to work alongside members of the House and Senate to pass reforms agreeable to both parties.

"Now it is our joint responsibility -- the president, the House and the Senate -- to work together in a bipartisan way to ensure that Americans are not damaged by the inability to pass a replacement," Hoyer said. "The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land and each of us have a responsibility to make sure that it is implemented in a way that is positive for Americans and American families."

Hoyer's criticism of the GOP bill introduced late Thursday was succinct: "It was not a bill that would have been positive for the American people."

The specific contents of that legislation were not delivered in detail to the Senate until 10 p.m. Thursday.

What McConnell gave the Senate was an eight-page bill called the Health Care Freedom Act. The bill would have ended both the individual mandate that financially penalizes people who don't have health insurance, as well as the requirement that employers of a certain size provide coverage.

It would also delay a medical device tax and defund Planned Parenthood for at least one year, while increasing grants to community health centers.

In addition, health insurance companies would have no longer been required to provide a minimum standard regarding maternity care and prescription drugs.

A Congressional Budget Office analysis estimated that the HCFA would have increased the number of uninsured people in the United States by 16 million over the next 10 years.

In a statement regarding his "no" vote, McCain criticized the bill for how quickly it was pushed through the Senate.

"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," he said. "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 healthcare providers are fleeing the marketplace."

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