Washington, July 28 (IANS) The US Senate on Friday rejected a scaled-down Republican plan to repeal parts of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, derailing the Republicans’ seven-year campaign to dismantle former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law and dealing a huge political blow to President Donald Trump.
The move raised the prospect of emergency bipartisan talks to shore up the existing healthcare system. A key vote to defeat the measure was cast by Senator John McCain, who returned to the Senate earlier this week after receiving a diagnosis of brain cancer, the Washington Post reported.
The GOP bill was voted down 51 to 49 — all 48 members of the Democratic caucus were joined by Republican Senators McCain, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski to block the legislation. His move sparked stunned gasps and some applause.
Shortly after the vote, Trump responded with a tweet: “3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down. As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!”
“This is clearly a disappointing moment,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “I regret that our efforts were not enough, this time.”
“It’s time to move on,” he said. McConnell put the health bill on hold and announced that the Senate would move onto other legislation next week.
The “skinny” bill would have repealed Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates and denied funding to Planned Parenthood for a year. It would have also delayed a tax on medical devices, the Hill magazine reported.
“It’s time to turn the page,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York. “We are not celebrating. We are relieved.”
In a statement after the vote, McCain said Congress “must now return to the correct way of legislating and send the bill back to committee… and produce a bill that finally delivers affordable health care for the American people.”
Later, senators in both parties said they are ready to quickly launch work on a new plan.
“Maybe this had to happen to actually begin to have a conversation,” said Senator Bill Cassidy, who had tried and failed to broker a previous bipartisan compromise.
Senator Thomas R. Carper, a Democrat, said Congress needs “to turn the page and stabilize the exchanges”. Several Republicans, stunned by the abrupt end to their years-long fight, lodged veiled criticism of Collins, McCain and Murkowski.
The US President ran on the promise of repealing and replacing his predecessor’s 2010-promulgated health reform and had been pressuring Republicans for months to put forward and pass a repeal bill.
Ahead of the vote, many Republican senators admitted that the measure was not good policy, but, in a highly unusual situation, said they were voting for it simply to advance the process and set up a negotiation with the House on a new bill, the report said.
The Congressional Budget Office found that the bill would result in 16 million more uninsured people and roughly 20 per cent higher premiums.