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Senate votes to advance debate on repealing, replacing Obamacare

The Senate voted Tuesday — by a simply, 51 vote majority — to advance debate on how best to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, delivering Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) his first victory on the issue. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

After a seemingly endless struggle to advance any plan to repeal and replace the embattled Affordable Care Act, the Senate voted Tuesday to proceed to debate the GOP bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was just days ago diagnosed with brain cancer, cast the final vote for the motion and Vice President Mike Pence tipped the scales in the GOP’s favor, giving the Republicans the 51 votes needed to advance to open debate.

Despite voting in favor of the motion, McCain, who spoke from the Senate floor following Tuesday’s vote, made it clear that he will not support the Senate health care bill in its current state.

“I will not vote for this bill as it is today,” the 80-year-old lawmaker said, later urging bipartisanship on coming up with a health care plan to replace Obamacare.

Republican Sens. Rob Portman (Ohio), Dean Heller (Nev.), and Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) were originally on the fence about the procedural vote to proceed to the bill but ultimately voted in favor of the open amendment process.

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) were the only Republicans who voted against the motion.

With a simple majority of 51 “yes” votes, the Senate will begin a period of debate — which can last up to 20 hours — on how best to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s signature health care legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has struggled to gather enough “yes” votes since the House of Representatives passed a version of the bill in May. In a largely private effort, the Senate leadership has presented multiple versions of an Obamacare replacement bill and one flat repeal of the law. All efforts thus far have been stymied.

All 48 Democrats in the Senate voted against the motion to open debate on repealing and replacing Obamacare.

The Senate Republicans’ successful vote Tuesday followed a series of tweets from President Donald Trump, who has been pressuring GOP lawmakers to “step up to the plate” and work to do away with the Affordable Care Act. The president also praised McCain for returning to Capitol Hill to vote on the issue.

McCain used his address after the vote to reprimand his own party for failing to be more successful in the first six months of Trump’s presidency.

“We keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle. That’s an approach that’s been employed by both sides, mandating legislation from the top down, without any support from the other side, with all the parliamentary maneuvers that requires,” McCain said. “We’re getting nothing done!”

Tuesday’s health care vote, at least, might be a step toward starting to accomplish something.

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