Alaska’s U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski joined Sens. John McCain and Susan Collins to provide the three critical votes needed to defeat the last-ditch GOP effort to pass a “skinny repeal” of Obamacare late Thursday night.
The Senate GOP’s three-day attempt to overhaul the health care system ended in dramatic fashion with the vote.
The floor debate paused for an hour prior to the final vote as it became clear that McCain had solidified his position against the repeal. Republican senators could be seen, grim-faced, attempting to win over McCain and Murkowski. Meanwhile reporters and political watchers turned to C-SPAN and Twitter to discuss and analyze the body language of senators in the hours leading up to the vote.
Murkowski and McCain had in recent days been deeply critical of the process. The bill they finally helped defeat had been released just hours before.
Murkowski’s no vote was registered a few moments before McCain, and once McCain’s vote became clear, Democrats on the Senate floor cheered.
In the moments after the vote McCain, the 2008 presidential candidate, and Murkowski, a politician from Alaska, sat together on the Senate floor, having just protected Obamacare.
— shauna (@goldengateblond) July 28, 2017
“Dumbest thing in history”
The vote would have removed the individual mandate requiring people to have health insurance, part of the employer mandate and allowed states to apply for waivers from insurance regulations created by Obamacare. The repeal of the individual mandate alone was estimated to raise premiums by 20 percent and throw the individual marketplaces into uncertainty, the very thing Republicans said they hoped to prevent with the repeal.
Without the mandate or some alternative, the marketplaces would be expected to shed many healthy individuals, who could simply buy insurance whenever they might need it. It was such a preposterous idea that many Republican senators spent the night hoping to get assurances that it wouldn’t actually become law.
Sen. Lindsay Graham held a news conference with McCain and a number of other senators before the vote to pitch an alternative that could be proposed once the bill reached a conference committee with the House. Graham said passing the skinny repeal into law “would be the dumbest thing in history” and not work for any state. He ultimately voted for it.
Murkowski’s opposition to the GOP-driven Obamacare repeal has been simmering for months and crystallized over the last few days. She’s been particularly critical of the rushed, closed-door and one-sided process that’s yielded a variety of plans that each would challenge Alaska more than any other state.
On Tuesday she cast no votes against opening debate and against the Senate version of the repeal, and again on Wednesday against straight repeal.
She became the target of President Donald Trump’s attacks on Twitter and of thinly veiled violent threats by male House Republicans.
The worst of the attacks came when President Donald Trump threatened—as delivered by a call from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Wednesday—a variety of “strong economic growth, pro-energy, pro-mining, pro-jobs” policies in Alaska, as reported by Sen. Dan Sullivan.
Sullivan has been on board with the GOP repeal of Obamacare throughout the last few days, having voted to open debate on the bill as well as for the Senate version and a straight repeal. Sullivan also voted in favor of the “skinny repeal” and was even seen attempting to sway Murkowski on the Senate floor tonight.
NEW SCRUM: Blunt, Sullivan and Thune working on MURKOWSKI. If they get her, don’t need McCain.
— Steven Dennis (@StevenTDennis) July 28, 2017
Still, none of it seemed to sway Murkowski.
Earlier in the day, Murkowski responded to Trump’s threats.
“Here’s what we’re dealing with. The president wants to get a health care bill. He’s gonna make calls — that’s understood. He’s been doing it, and that’s kind of his job. I don’t have a hardship with that, I don’t have heartburn with that at all,” Murkowski told the Alaska Dispatch News. “I said I was going to work with the new administration on things that matter to Alaskans, whether it is energy or whether it is access to our lands or whether it is health care. And I intend to do just that.”
The U.S. Senate adjourned to Monday. A near-tears Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sent the bill back to the calendar, tabling it for now.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for an honest, open and bipartisan process moving forward. That’s something Murkowski said has been needed all along.