In a very surprising early-morning twist, the GOP failed to advance their Health Care Freedom Act, the "skinny repeal" legislation that had been the topic of much speculation all week and was finally unveiled just a few hours before Friday morning's vote. Republican Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and John McCain (R-Arizona)—who flew to Washington, D.C., after receiving a diagnosis of brain cancer last week—voted against a procedural motion to consider the skinny repeal legislation.
Collins and Murkowski both voted earlier this week against the motion to proceed to Affordable Care Act repeal-and-replace, so their vote was no surprise. McCain's vote, on the other hand, came as something of a shock—though, looking back at his speech delivered before the Senate earlier in the week, maybe it shouldn't have been:
Why don't we try the old way of legislating in the Senate, the way our rules and customs encourage us to act. If this process ends in failure, which seem likely, then let's return to regular order.
Let the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee under Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray hold hearings, try to report a bill out of committee with contributions from both sides. Then bring it to the floor for amendment and debate, and see if we can pass something that will be imperfect, full of compromises, and not very pleasing to implacable partisans on either side, but that might provide workable solutions to problems Americans are struggling with today.
What have we to lose by trying to work together to find those solutions? We're not getting much done apart.
Shortly after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) expressed his disappointment at his party's failure to pass the legislation but seemed more open to the idea of bipartisanship. "It's time for our friends on the other side to tell us what they have in mind, and we'll see how the American people feel about their ideas," McConnell said.
In his response to McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) promised to end the Democrats' blockade of nominees put forth by the Trump administration. Schumer also called on his colleagues to heed McCain's advice, tearing up when he said that "[a]ll of us were so inspired by the speech and the life of the senator from Arizona."