'Skinny repeal' rejected in big blow for Trump
McCain joins two fellow Republicans, sinks bid to gut Obamacare in 49-51 vote
WASHINGTON: In a stinging blow to US President Donald Trump, the Senate Republicans failed yesterday to dismantle Obamacare, falling short on a major campaign promise and perhaps ending a seven-year quest by their party to gut the healthcare law.
Republican senators John McCain, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski joined the Democrats in a dramatic 49-51 vote to reject a "skinny repeal" bill that would have killed some parts of Obamacare.
"The American people are going to regret that we couldn't find a better way forward," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said after the vote.
Mr Trump's failure sent the dollar down against a basket of other currencies yesterday and leaves him without a major legislative win after more than six months in power, despite Republicans controlling the White House, Senate and House.
"3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down. As I said from the beginning, let Obamacare implode, then deal. Watch!" he tweeted.
He has demanded at various times that Obamacare should be allowed to collapse on its own, that it should be repealed without replacement and that it should be repealed and replaced.
Obamacare, approved in 2010, provided health insurance to millions of previously uninsured Americans.
The voting down of the bill still leaves uncertainty in the healthcare industry, with insurers not sure how long the Trump administration will continue to make billions in Obamacare payments that help cover out-of-pocket medical expenses for low-income Americans.
Insurers have until September to set rates for next year's health plans in many marketplaces. Some insurers have pulled out of Obamacare markets, citing the uncertainty, while others have raised rates by double digits.
Republicans hold 52 seats in the 100-seat Senate. Mr McConnell could only afford to lose support from two Republican senators, with the tie-breaking vote to be cast by Vice-President Mike Pence, who was on the Senate floor.
Republicans released the bill just three hours before voting began. It would have retroactively repealed the Obamacare penalty on individuals who do not purchase health insurance, repealed for eight years a penalty on certain employers who do not provide employees with insurance and repealed a medical device tax until 2020.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that if it became law, 15 million fewer Americans would be insured next year than under existing law.
As the vote approached, all eyes in the Senate chamber were on Mr McCain. The former Republican presidential nominee had flown back from Arizona after being diagnosed with brain cancer in order to vote.
He was then approached before voting began by Mr Pence and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.
After speaking to them, Mr McCain walked across the Senate floor to tell Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats that he would vote with them. They laughed as Mr McCain said that the reporters in the balcony could probably read his lips.
When Mr McCain walked to cast his deciding "no" vote, giving a thumbs down, Democrats cheered, knowing the bill would fail.- REUTERS