Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s bid to pass a stripped-down repeal of Obamacare on a party-line vote failed dramatically in the early hours of Friday when Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., joined two other Republican holdouts and all the Democrats to vote against the measure.
McCain stunned several of his fellow Republican senators when he walked onto the Senate floor after midnight and appeared to inform Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican, that he couldn’t vote for the “skinny repeal” bill. Just a few days earlier, McCain flew back to the Capitol from Arizona after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer to cast the deciding vote to begin debating it.
After McCain informed Senate leadership of his decision, McConnell delayed the vote for more than an hour, giving time for members to try to lure McCain as well as Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, back into the fold.
“The untouchables!” McCain exclaimed when Collins joined him and Murkowski on the floor, joking about their outcast status among the caucus.
Vice President Mike Pence, who arrived on the Senate floor to cast what he thought would be a tie-breaking vote to pass a repeal bill, spent more than 10 minutes lobbying McCain on the Senate floor, out of earshot of reporters. Meanwhile, several members of the GOP leadership team surrounded Murkowski, attempting to get her to flip her vote so the measure could still narrowly pass.
At one point, McCain crossed the Senate floor and joined a huddle of ebullient Democrats, hugging Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. — a sign to the reporters watching in the gallery above that Pence’s lobbying had clearly failed. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., later said he and McCain had been in contact four or five times a day over the past few days, and that McCain informed him of his decision after he walked on the floor.
Shortly afterwards, McConnell was forced to concede defeat, holding the vote he knew would fall short by just one member of his caucus.
Here’s a look at protests across the country in opposition to the GOP health care bill.