The most dramatic moment of the Senate vote on the "skinny repeal" of Obamacare was no doubt Sen. John McCain's no vote — it will be the moment people will remember when thinking back on the wee hours of Friday morning on the Senate floor. But McCain was not the most important person in the defeat of the GOP effort to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski killed the skinny repeal bill; both women also voted no, although if McCain is getting all of the credit for it.
While McCain's no vote certainly came as the biggest surprise, Collins and Murkowski have been against their party's efforts to repeal Obamacare without a suitable replacement from the very beginning. When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell forced through a procedural vote on Tuesday that allowed the debate over an Obamacare repeal to continue, Collins and Murkowski were the only ones to oppose it. Murkowski even faced threats from the Trump administration because of her opposition to the bill, but she and Collins' dedication to their most vulnerable constituents never wavered. While such sustained opposition doesn't make for the kind of Senate floor drama that McCain's vote provided, the bill never would have failed if Murkowski and Collins hadn't thrown their weight into defeating it.
The two senators' greatest concerns included cuts to Medicaid and the effect on rural hospitals, and the Guardian reported on how they have both consistently opposed Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, which was included in earlier GOP efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare. Their consistent opposition was most likely an important reason why they and Sen. Shelley Capito of West Virginia were left out of the process of drafting an earlier version of the bill.
While both Republican and Democratic lawmakers spent a lot of energy trying to convince John McCain to vote with them, Democrats could rest assured that Murkowski and Collins would not waver in their opposition. And as Democrats only have 48 members in the Senate, Collins' and Murkowski's votes against the Republican efforts were crucial to defeating them; without those two Republican female senators, the bill almost certainly would have ended up on Donald Trump's desk at some point.
Both senators have expressed a desire to improve the situation of health care in America through the proper channels: debates in committees and public hearings, which would then lead to votes where all of the senators arrived feeling knowledgeable and confident about the bill at hand. That's hardly a dramatic approach, and it's unlikely to lead to midnight votes and surprise defectors. It could, however, produce a bill that would benefit more Americans by giving them quality, affordable health care. Collins and Murkowski have made it clear that whenever their fellow Republicans are willing to go that direction, they will be more than willing to follow.