It’s the “revenge of the GOP women,” Associated Press congressional reporter Alan Fram pointed out, as it became apparent that Republicans would soon have no choice but to throw in the towel on their Obamacare repeal efforts.
By Tuesday afternoon, three Republican senators — all women — had come out against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan to push a vote on a clean Obamacare repeal bill — enough to sink it altogether. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) confirmed they would not vote for a repeal bill that delayed enacting the policy by two years.
It didn’t take long.
On Monday night, two key defections killed the Senate’s revised health care bill. Voting on a clean repeal bill appeared to be McConnell’s Hail Mary effort to get his conference to vote on some form of Obamacare repeal. But gripes around a closed legislative process, and what would only be more uncertainty to come with a successful repeal-and-delay bill, tanked the effort in less than a day.
It’s notable that the three women who had the final say, vocal in their positions on health care policy, were all cut out of the Senate’s initial working group to draft the Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill — a group of 13 men.
As @asfram points out it's the revenge of the GOP women - Capito, Collins, Murkowski - all frozen out of the initial health working group— Erica Werner (@ericawerner) July 18, 2017
The working group invited Capito to attend several of their meetings to discuss Medicaid — an issue that directly impacted Capito’s state, which is struggling to combat a rampant opioid addiction epidemic. But Capito was never a full-time member. Collins, meanwhile, assembled her own working group, at times extending the invitation to Democratic senators.
Ultimately, however, their concerns with Senate leadership’s direction, and their efforts to get involved, seemed to have little traction in the bill’s drafting process. Medicaid saw a massive cut — more than $770 billion over 10 years — in both iterations of the Senate’s health bill. Both bills weakened protections for people with preexisting conditions, and moved to defund Planned Parenthood for one year, which Murkowski and Collins have both opposed.
Murkowski grew so frustrated with Senate leaders’ closed process that at the release of their first health bill, she quipped that she had yet to see a draft: “I am not a reporter, and I am not a lobbyist, so I’ve seen nothing,” she said then.
But while left out of the process, it appears these three women had the final say. In opposing a motion to proceed on the health care vote in the Senate, they effectively ended efforts to vote on a repeal bill altogether.
“I did not come to Washington to hurt people,” Capito said in a statement, adding that the repeal-and-replace bills failed to address her concerns. “I cannot vote to repeal Obamacare without a replacement plan that addresses my concerns and the needs of West Virginians.”
Murkowski echoed many of Capito’s concerns, telling reporters that repealing Obamacare now and delaying the replacement would only add to the “chaos.”
President Trump seems to have accepted this reality and thrown in the towel on health care completely. He told reporters his new plan is to “let Obamacare fail, it will be a lot easier.”