Senate opens ‘Obamacare’ debate at last but outcome in doubt
By ERICA WERNER
WASHINGTON (AP) — Prodded by President Donald Trump, a bitterly divided Senate voted, at last, Tuesday to move forward with the Republicans’ long-promised legislation to repeal and replace “Obamacare.” There was high drama as Sen. John McCain returned to the Capitol for the first time after being diagnosed with brain cancer to cast a decisive “yes” vote.
The final tally was 51-50, with Vice President Mike Pence, exercising his constitutional prerogative, breaking the tie after two Republicans joined all 48 Democrats in voting “no.”
When the Senate voted Tuesday evening on the bill’s initial amendment, it underscored how hard it will be for the chamber’s divided Republicans to pass a sweeping replacement of Obama’s law.
By 57-43 — including nine GOP defectors — it blocked a wide-ranging proposal by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to erase and replace much of the statute. It included language by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, letting insurers sell cut-rate policies with skimpy coverage, plus an additional $100 billion to help states ease out-of-pocket costs for people losing Medicaid — a provision sought by Midwestern moderates including Rob Portman, R-Ohio.
On the day’s opening vote to begin debate, and with all senators in their seats and protesters agitating outside and briefly inside the chamber, the vote was held open at length before McCain, 80, entered the chamber. Greeted by cheers, he smiled and dispensed hugs — but with the scars from recent surgery starkly visible on the left side of his face.
Despite voting “yes,” he took a lecturing tone afterward and hardly saw success assured for the legislation after weeks of misfires, even after Tuesday’s victory for Trump and Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
“If this process ends in failure, which seems likely, then let’s return to regular order,” McCain said as he chided Republican leaders for devising the legislation […]