One by one, the Republicans approached the old Arizona warrior on the floor of the U.S. Senate, late Thursday night and into early Friday morning, East Coast time.
One by one, they left disappointed.
The last was Vice President Mike Pence. He had expected to cast the tie-breaking vote on the Republican Senate health care bill, the “Skinny Repeal” of the Affordable Care Act. If the bill passed, it would send the legislation back to the U.S. House of Representatives, which had already passed its version of health care legislation that estimates said would leave as many as 23 million Americans uncovered.
That worried opponents of the Senate legislation like the American Medical Association.
"The so-called 'skinny' bill is a toxic prescription that would make matters worse," AMA President David Barbe told USA Today. "Eliminating the individual mandate will lead to adverse selection, triggering higher premiums and further destabilizing the individual market. The stated goal was to advance policies to lower premiums, but the 'skinny' bill would do the exact opposite, harming patients across the country."
McCain and Pence talked for what seemed to be several minutes; finally, McCain patted Pence on the hand and walked away. His resolve was sealed.
Minutes later, around 1:30 a.m., the Republican senator, who had been diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer little more than a week ago, quietly cast his vote with a thumbs-down gesture, according to the New York Times.
He sided with two other Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and 48 Democrats to defeat the scaled-back attempt to repeal the ACA, 51-49.
So for now, Obamacare stays and so does health care for an estimated 400,000-plus Arizonans, who could have lost it if the repeal had been successful.
“Thank you!” Jeanne Jones of Chandler wrote on the Phoenix New Times Facebook page. “My husband and I are early retirees that depend on the affordable care act for health insurance. He is a Melanoma survivor. My mother just passed away from Brain cancer a month ago. Your speech and recent votes have given me hope.”
Added Denise Kinney of Chandler: “It was the right thing to do and now compromise must happen. Please take care of yourself.”
McCain also took to social media.
“Skinny repeal fell short because it fell short of our promise to repeal & replace Obamacare w/ meaningful reform,” he tweeted
He followed up with a statement from his office.
“We must now return to the correct way of legislating and send the bill back to committee, hold hearings, receive input from both sides of aisle, heed the recommendations of nation’s governors, and produce a bill that finally delivers affordable health care for the American people.
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“We must do the hard work our citizens expect of us and deserve.”
Not everyone was pleased with his vote, notably the nation’s No. 1 tweeter, President Donald Trump.
“3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down,” Trump typed. “As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!”