These 2 Women Should Really Get All The Credit for Killing the Obamacare Repeal

July 28th 2017

Mike Rothschild

On Thursday evening, the Senate voted 51-49 against the so-called "skinny repeal" of certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The vote was mostly down party lines, but there were three Republicans who joined 48 Democrats in oppositional votes: Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine), and John McCain (Arizona).

In light of McCain putting his treatment for brain cancer on hold to fly to Washington, D.C., for the vote, as well as his reversal from previous yes votes, the Arizona Republican is getting majority of the public accolades.

But many others are putting the spotlight firmly on Collins and Murkowski, the two women who opposed almost every one of the many permutations of repealing or replacing Obamacare.

While Collins and Murkowski have opposed every plan to repeal part or all of the Affordable Care Act, neither are a fan of the plan itself. Both voted against it when it came to the Senate for passage in 2010, and as recently as 2013, called the legislation "a disaster." Both also voted for the 2015 repeal bill that was eventually vetoed by former President Barack Obama.

But even though the two senators clearly have no love for Obamacare, they felt even worse about the many possible replacements thrown together by Congress. Both have been vocal in opposing any plan that would reduce coverage, prevent low-income Americans from buying insurance, and cut funding for seniors and children. The skinny repeal would have done all of this.

As early as January, before President Donald Trump was inaugurated, Collins was the only Republican to vote for a failed bill that would have prevented the Senate from cutting Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.

This was seen as a precursor to rolling back the Medicaid expansion that came with the ACA. At the time, a Collins spokeswoman told HuffPost that the senator only supported repealing the ACA "in a way that does not create a gap in coverage for individuals who are currently insured and who rely on that coverage.”

Murkowski also publicly came out against repeal without replacement in January, afraid of what it might do to the people of Alaska, which has the highest health care premiums in the country.

Since then, Collins and Murkowski have either voted against or declared their intention to oppose every variation of repealing or replacing Obamacare. After being the only to no votes on the motion to proceed on debating Obamacare's replacement, they also voted against the Senate's "Better Care" plan, straight repeal with no replacement, and Thursday night, against the partial repeal.

Both held firm in their stance, despite repeated Twitter tirades against them by Trump, insinuations that Alaska would be abandoned by the Trump administration, and at least one physical threat against Murkowski by a Georgia Republican congressman.

Because of their consistent opposition, the hastily thrown together Republican plan to repeal Obamacare is dead, at least for now. But what happens next is up in the air.

With little indication that any of the no votes will move away from their stance, Senate Republicans plan to move on to other items on their schedule, all of which have stalled because of the health care debate. Indeed, in a fiery speech early this week, McCain chastised his colleagues for "getting nothing done" due to the partisan bickering in the Senate.

It's possible Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could bring the vote back, but what's more likely, according to The Hill, is that the Senate Health Committee will hold bi-partisan hearings on how to stabilize the insurance market in the short-term. This needs to happen soon, because insurance companies will decide in September whether to leave or stay on Obamacare exchanges.

One final complication is McCain's cancer treatment, which he'll resume shortly. If McCain were to retire from the Senate, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey would have to appoint a Republican to fill his seat, until a special election could be held to finish out McCain's term.

Ducey has publicly come out both for repealing Obamacare, and against the various Senate plans, echoing McCain's stance. If McCain retired and was replaced by a pro-repeal Republican in the Senate, it could prompt McConnell to try another repeal vote, and put the spotlight back on Collins and Murkowski.