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Politics & Policy

McCain’s Odd Definition of ‘Leading the Fight to Stop Obamacare’

From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

John McCain’s Curious Definition of ‘Leading the Fight to Stop Obamacare’

May 2016: A John McCain reelection campaign ad, airing in Arizona:

Obamacare is failing Arizonans. First, a massive rate hike more than twice the national average. Then, America’s largest health insurer abandoned Arizona’s failing Obamacare exchange. That’s devastating – especially to rural counties. Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick bragged about her Obamacare vote, saying “it’s also the one I’m most proud about..” While Kirkpatrick’s “proud” of putting us at risk, John McCain is leading the fight to stop Obamacare.

“John McCain is leading the fight to stop Obamacare.” Plenty of other McCain ads and campaign events and messaging pointed to stopping Obamacare as a big reason, perhaps the biggest reason, Arizonans needed to return him to the Senate.

Then, last night, push came to shove. The options were clear: vote for “skinny repeal” and get that version of the repeal bill to conference committee with the House of Representatives, where negotiators from the House and Senate could revise the bill further, or vote it down and effectively end the process, as no version of repeal legislation could reach 50 votes.

McCain made his choice:

Sen. John McCain cast the deciding vote to sink his fellow Republicans’ so-called “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act.

McCain, R-Ariz., joined Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and every Senate Democrat to bring down the bill on a 49-51 vote.

The late-night failure of the skinny-repeal option, which would have ended the Affordable Care Act’s individual and employer insurance mandates and medical device tax for three years and made other limited changes, effectively ended the current GOP push to undo what Republicans call “Obamacare.”

“From the beginning, I have believed that Obamacare should be repealed and replaced with a solution that increases competition, lowers costs, and improves care for the American people,” McCain said in a written statement issued after the vote, which happened early Friday Eastern time.

“The so-called ‘skinny repeal’ amendment the Senate voted on today would not accomplish those goals. While the amendment would have repealed some of Obamacare’s most burdensome regulations, it offered no replacement to actually reform our health care system and deliver affordable, quality health care to our citizens.”

“I’ve stated time and time again that one of the major failures of ‘Obamacare’ was that it was rammed through Congress by Democrats on a strict-party line basis without a single Republican vote,” McCain said. “We should not make the mistakes of the past that has led to Obamacare’s collapse, including in my home state of Arizona where premiums are skyrocketing and health care providers are fleeing the marketplace.

“We must now return to the correct way of legislating and send the bill back to committee, hold hearings, receive input from both sides of aisle, heed the recommendations of nation’s governors, and produce a bill that finally delivers affordable health care for the American people,” he continued. “We must do the hard work our citizens expect of us and deserve.”

McCain didn’t like the substance of the replacement or the process by which that replacement was written, so he – along with Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski – blew up the process and forced Congressional Republicans to start over again.

We can argue about whether that is the right or wrong move at that moment. But it’s very difficult to characterize McCain’s decision as “leading the fight to stop Obamacare.” That’s more like leading the fight to keep Obamacare in place while you continue to look for a replacement that you like better. Had Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick won the 2016 Arizona Senate race, she would have voted the same way.

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