In the early hours of Friday, July 28th, Senator John McCain of Arizona entered the Senate chamber to cast his vote on the “skinny” repeal to the Affordable Care Act. A paired down version of the initial health-care plan, the new repeal would end Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates, both despised by the Republican Party. As McCain entered the chamber, the press asked him how he would vote, the six-term senator telling them to “watch the show.” After great deliberation, multiple senators meeting with him privately, and even a conference with many Democratic senators, McCain cast his vote as a no, being one of only three Republican senators to do so. Many called this one of McCain’s “maverick” moments, as up until the time he voted, he had alluded to the fact that he was going to vote yes. Many Republican senators were shocked at his vote, which killed the repeal and sends the GOP back to the drawing board.
McCain’s logic in voting no on something his party had worked so hard to push through was that the process itself was horribly flawed. The initial repeal to the Act had just been stripped down further and further each time it was voted down on the floor, and the lack of hearings and very one-sided negotiations were philosophies McCain didn’t believe in. While McCain is a moderate, he is known as being more often than not willing to vote with his party, in this case breaking that stigma. In reality, the process that McCain doesn’t believe in is very flawed, as by this point the GOP is working harder to pass anything than they are to truly pass something that can take down Obamacare. They are not listening to those in the party like Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) and Bill Cassidy (Louisiana) who have new ideas that would benefit the bill. Seven months into the process, it seems like the new Republican attitude is “something is better than nothing.”
John McCain, only two weeks out of a surgery that revealed he has terminal brain cancer, returned to Washington D.C. on Tuesday to a hero’s welcome, even receiving praise from President Trump on Twitter for his proposed vote for the “skinny” repeal. But, as things broke down further throughout the week and it looked more and more like the repeal could be more of a negative than a positive, uncertainty began to circle around how John would vote. In a press conference on Thursday evening, McCain, Graham, Cassidy and Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin all told the press that they would vote yes on the bill if they received word from the Speaker of the House that the bill would go to conference, where referendums and changes could take place. Receiving this confirmation, Graham, Cassidy, and Johnson all voted yes, but when McCain entered the Senate chamber at 2 A.M. Friday morning, questions loomed. In the Thursday press conference, McCain also alluded to the fact that his vote would depend on Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s take of the bill, stressing that Obamacare had been horrible for the state and that he trusted Ducey to share his honest opinion and help McCain make the best decision for the state. So while McCain’s vote was somewhat of a surprise, there were signs in the previous days that he would vote no.
McCain joined Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins as the only three Republican senators to vote no on the bill, and when leaving Capitol Hill in the morning, he responded to the question “Why did you vote no?” with a simple “because it was the right vote.” Many Republican supporters were confused and angered at McCain for this, but in reality, he was right. Instead of letting the “skinny” repeal, a watered-down version of the initial health care bill, pass through the Senate and possibly the House to the president’s desk, McCain gave his party a chance to go back and start over. In a speech on Tuesday, McCain told his colleagues that bi-partisanship needed to shine in the coming weeks and months, and said that they were getting nothing done. A close friend, Senator Lindsey Graham has always been a strong supporter of McCain and his decisions, and while Graham himself voted yes, he can now have the opportunity to propose the changes he has to make the bill better and more effective in repealing Obamacare. Engaged in deep conversation right before McCain cast his vote, he had Graham nodding in agreement to whatever his logic was, and now Graham, Cassidy, and others don’t have to wait for a conference in the House to propose their ideas, now being able to make the key points of a new health care reform bill that could please all of the GOP.