Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to pass a bill, any bill, as long as it offers some semblance to a repeal of Obamacare. The repeal and replace plan was shot down, and so was the repeal only option. So that left him with the "skinny" repeal. That seemed like a long shot for approval even earlier Thursday, but he decided to push for a vote anyway. McConnell and the Senate GOP will have to keep on working on it, though, because the Senate failed to pass the "skinny repeal." The bill failed 49 to 51.
Three Republicans joined every Democrat in voting against the bill. In addition to Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — the reliable "no" votes — was Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
"This is clearly a disappointment," McConnell said after the vote, arguing that "constituents had suffered a lot under Obamacare." He said that it had been a lot of work trying to repeal Obamacare. Then he thanked the president, vice president, and colleagues in the House, adding, "I regret our work was simply not enough." He blamed the Democrats for not working together on the matter. "I expect they're pretty satisfied tonight," McConnell said.
The bill that they voted on was called a "skinny repeal" because it didn't completely repeal Obamacare; it only would have repealed some of the least popular parts of the Affordable Care Act. Among the key changes would have been a repeal of the individual mandate. It would change the fine for not having health insurance from the greater of $695 or 2.5 percent of your income to $0 or 0 percent.
The employer mandate would have been delayed, Planned Parenthood defunded, and health care savings account maximums increased, among other changes. The Congressional Budget Office said it would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 15 million by next year and premiums would have gone up by 20 percent.
The vote was held at about 1:30 a.m. ET. Democrats were incensed by the process. Sen. Chuck Schumer spoke before the vote, criticizing that they had only seen the bill for a few hours before having to vote on it. "We haven't even had the chance to explore all of the ramifications." Some of the details of the bill were circulated in the media earlier in the day, but the full text was not released until just before 10 p.m. ET.
"Not one in this body who is proud of this product," Schumer added. He called on his colleagues to vote against it and to let Democrats work together with Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act. There was even an amendment vote to send the bill to the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee to be improved on a bipartisan basis and debated more thoroughly. It was defeated 48 to 52 along party lines.
After the final vote, ending the Obamacare repeal debate, McConnell pointed to the Democrats, blaming them for the bill's failure and imploring them to come up with new solutions. "It's time for our friends on the other side to tell us what they have in mind," McConnell said, going on to suggest that Democrats would push for socialized, "European" health care.
Schumer then took the floor again, speaking about his fellow Democrats. "We are not celebrating, we are relieved," he said, explaining they were glad millions of Americans would not lose their health care.