WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate failed early Friday to enact a partial repeal of the 7-year-old Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. Three Republican lawmakers — John McCain of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine — voted with Democrats in the 49-51 defeat of the Republican-led repeal effort.
President Donald Trump took to his Twitter account shortly after the vote to admonish the Republicans who sided with the Democrats.
"3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down. As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!" the president wrote.
The so-called "skinny repeal" legislation would, among other things, have ended the requirements that most Americans buy health insurance or pay a penalty, and that companies with 50 or more employees provide coverage to their workers.
Republican senators have wanted for seven years to do away with Obamacare, the signature domestic legislative achievement of former President Barack Obama.
About 20 million Americans gained health care insurance under Obamacare. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated in a study of the "skinny repeal" measure that 16 million Americans would lose their coverage and premiums would increase by 20 percent.
"Skinny repeal fell short because it fell short of our promise to repeal & replace Obamacare w/ meaningful reform," McCain wrote on Twitter. Later, he added, "I hope we can rely on humility, cooperation & dependence on each other to better serve the people who elected us.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York said, "It's time to turn the page. ... We are not celebrating. We are relieved."
Republican leaders saw the scaled-down bid as a way of honoring their campaign promises to repeal and replace Obamacare. Conservative lawmakers want to overturn as much as possible of Obamacare, while more moderate Republicans are worried that such changes could affect health insurance coverage for millions of poorer Americans.
"This is clearly a disappointing moment," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. "I regret that our efforts were not enough, this time."
Earlier this week, Senate Republicans failed twice to overturn the ACA, either by repealing the law outright or repealing it and at the same time replacing it with a new version.
Of the two failed votes earlier in the week, nine Republicans first joined all the Democrats in rejecting a proposed replacement health care bill crafted by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The second effort called for outright repeal of Obamacare in two years' time, during which period Congress would be expected to agree on replacement legislation; that was rejected by a similar margin, with seven Republicans joining the unified Democratic minority bloc.