WASHINGTON – Three senators from U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican Party joined their Democratic rivals to reject a pared-down repeal bill of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Barack Obama’s signature health care reform, early Friday.
The final vote – 49 in favour and 51 against – included Republican Senators John McCain, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins voting against the so-called “skinny repeal” bill.
The repeal of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, has been a rallying cry for Republicans since the programme was signed in 2010, and Trump has made getting rid of Obamacare a key goal of his administration.
The legislation would have removed several key provisions of Obamacare – including a requirement that all Americans purchase health insurance or face a penalty – but leave much of the legislation in place.
The result is a bitter defeat for the Republican leadership, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called it a “disappointing moment.”
Previous attempts to repeal the act, a landmark piece of legislation passed under previous president Barack Obama, had also failed in the past weeks despite Republican control of both houses.
In a bid to compromise, McConnell had presented a partial repeal bill, or “skinny repeal” bill, late Thursday.
The Senate voted on a series of amendments before the final vote which came in the early hours of Friday.
In response to the bill’s defeat, President Donald Trump tweeted: “3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down. As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!”
Democrats argue that Obamacare brought coverage to millions of uninsured US residents.
Hours before Friday’s vote, the independent Congressional Budget Office, which analyses economic issues, said McConnell’s “skinny” bill would leave 15 million more Americans uninsured in 2018 compared to the current law.
Republicans have argued against Obamacare by citing rising costs and fewer insurance providers participating in the programme in many parts of the country.