The Senate just narrowly passed a vote to began debate on a new health care repeal bill, and it was down to the wire. One of the last Republican votes announced in a tight roll call was Arizona Senator John McCain, who returned from recovering from surgery and a recent diagnosis of brain cancer for the vote. To applause from other senators, he cast a “yes” vote to move health care into debate in the Senate.
Within minutes, he was getting called out on social media.
McCain made headlines last week after his absence due to a recent surgery delayed an initial vote on health care, and then again, more tragically, when his office announced that the surgery had uncovered an aggressive type of brain tumor called a glioblastoma.
People were furious that McCain, who enjoys the excellent health care offered to Congress, had just voted to begin discussing repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka Obamacare). The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that repealing Obamacare without a replacement bill would have 32 million people lose insurance by 2026.
Meanwhile, the CBO estimated that under a Republican Senate replacement health care bill, 22 million would lose insurance by 2026.
President Donald Trump, who has been pushing for the repeal of the ACA, applauded McCain on Twitter.
The two have generally not had a strong relationship, with Trump at one point refusing to call McCain a hero for his military service, but it seems warmer now that McCain has supported Trump's legislative goal.
Nevertheless, in a speech on the Senate floor after the vote, McCain called on his colleagues to not simply vote according to the president's wishes. Despite belonging to the same political party, “We are not the president's subordinates," he said. "We are his equals.”
Twitter thought that was pretty ironic, considering.
McCain also called for bipartisanship in Congress, noting that the health care repeal process was conducted behind closed doors with no input from Democrats. He called on both parties to "trust each other" and be open to compromises and working together.
It didn't go over well.
The push to repeal the ACA is now expected to go through a period of debate.
At some point, legislators will vote on an amended version of the bill.
In his speech, McCain said that he would not vote in favor of the legislation as it stands today. "It's a shell of a bill," he said.