By Miriam Raftery
July 28, 2017 (Washington D.C.) – John McCain, an 80-year-old war hero and former prisoner of war who recently underwent brain cancer surgery, has had more than his share of serious health conditions in his lifetime.
Late last night, the Arizona maverick cast the deciding vote to kill the Senate’s latest and likely final effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act—standing up and giving a visual thumbs down to the so-called “skinny repeal” bill with no replacement plan.
The proposal would have given Congress two years to come up with a replacement before the repeal would have taken effect, though the GOP has failed to produce a viable plan despite years of calling for Obamacare repeal.
McCain was joined by two Republican Senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, along with all of the Democratic Senators, in voting no. The measure failed 51 to 49. Had any one of these Senators voted for the measure, Vice President Mike Pence would have cast the tie-breaking vote.
Just days earlier, McCain cast another deciding vote to allow debate to commence on the repeal efforts. In his 30 years in the Senate, McCain has never cast a vote against debate, but has said he could not support measures that the Congressional Budget Office had estimated would take away healthcare for 32 million people.
The maverick Senator and former Presidential nominee for the GOP, stood up against his party’s majority leadership and President Donald Trump, who once mocked McCain’s years as a prisoner of war despite the fact that McCain refused early release due to being the son of a high-ranking officer, staying imprisoned for years with other men in captivity.
McCain did, however, also have criticism for Democrats who under the Obama administration pushed through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, on a single-party vote.
He offered these words of wisdom for his colleagues. "Why don't we try the old way of legislating in the Senate, the way our rules and customs encourage us to act. If this process ends in failure, which seem likely, then let's return to regular order.”
Whether or not Senate Republicans may not reach across the aisle to include Democrats in healthcare reform discussions, who have thus far been barred from all negotiating sessions, remains to be seen. Many Americans have called for fixing gaps and flaws in Obamacare, rather than repealing it.
The move drew cheers from thousands of people who had gathered outside the Capitol during the vote, chanting "Kill the bill" as the historic vote took place. Many of the opponents told media they had serious medical conditions and feared passage of the bill would be a death sentence to them. For now, those with pre-existing conditions and other Obamacare protections have been granted a reprieve, though the action came as a disappointment to conservatives seeking to trim federal spending on healthcare.
Republicans favoring repeal had sought a free market approach to increase competition, which they contended would give Americans more choices in policies to buy. That may be so for those with the means to afford those choices. But the GOP but failed to address how to keep healthcare affordable and accessible for the tens of millions who obtained policies – many for the first time – under Obamacare.
President Trump, meanwhile, has said he plans to “let Obamacare fail” and has taken active steps to implode the Affordable Care Act’s successes.
Those steps include ordering a stop to advertising and staff help to advise the public on sign-up deadlines for Obamacare policies, cutting out reimbursements for insurers taking high-risk patients, and telling the I.R.S. to not impose penalties on people who ignored the law’s mandates to carry healthcare. Analysts warn that without the mandates, insurers would be stuck with mostly older and sicker patients, since mandates encouraged younger, healthier and less costly to treat Americans to buy insurance, spreading the risk and cost out broadly among all.
Not carrying healthcare is, however, a very risky business—and can be a death sentence if a young and uninsured person is diagnosed with a serious and costly to treat condition such as cancer.