Thu | Sep 21, 2017

US Senate rejects ObamaCare repeal bid, Trump tweets regret

Published:Friday | July 28, 2017 | 7:03 PM
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, a key steward of the House Republican health care bill, is surrounded by reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. – AP

WASHINGTON (AP):
Republican finger-pointing commenced Friday after the Senate's dark-of-night defeat of the GOP's effort to repeal much of the Obama health care law, a startling vote that dealt a blow to President Donald Trump.

"Three Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down," Trump tweeted early Friday after GOP leaders failed to patch party divisions and the Senate rejected a last-ditch bill to keep the effort alive. "As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!"

The "skinny repeal" bill – erasing several parts of President Barack Obama's law — was rejected just before 2 a.m. (US eastern time) on a vote of 51-49.

All Democrats were joined by GOP Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and the ailing John McCain. The 80-year-old Arizona senator made a dramatic return to the Capitol Tuesday after being diagnosed with brain cancer to cast a decisive procedural vote that for a time had advanced the legislation.

Following rejection of two broader GOP repeal plans earlier in the week, the early Friday vote cast doubt on whether divided Senate Republicans can advance any health bill despite seven years of promises to repeal "Obamacare."

House leaders had no hesitation about blaming the Senate for the collapse of one of the GOP's paramount priorities. In a statement, Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., pointedly said "the House delivered a bill" and said he was "disappointed and frustrated." Nearly three months earlier, the House approved its health care package after several embarrassing setbacks.

He added, "But we should not give up. I encourage the Senate to continue working toward a real solution that keeps our promise."

Underscoring the House's view of where the fault lie, leaders opened a morning meeting of the chamber's GOP lawmakers by playing audio of Gordon Lightfoot's "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,"  which recounts the 1975 wreck of a freighter in Lake Superior. Several lawmakers said House deputy whip Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., told them the song was meant as a reference to the Senate.

One moderate Republican said Trump shared responsibility for the bill's breakdown. "One of the failures was the president never laid out a plan or his core principles and never sold them to the American people," said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa. "Outsourced the whole issue to Congress."

The measure defeated Friday would have repealed an Obama mandate that most people get health insurance and would have suspended a requirement that larger companies offer coverage to their employees. It would have also suspended a tax on medical devices and denied federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year.