A surprise "no" from Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain became the death knell for the Freedom Act, his party's long-promised attempt to repeal the Obama administration's signature Affordable Care Act.
The Senate voted 51-49 to kill the bill, leaving the future of Republicans' years-long quest to "repeal and replace" the ACA in limbo.
All 48 Democratic senators voted against the Freedom Act; Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine joined McCain in voting against the agenda advanced by senior party figures such as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump.
The Freedom Act, the final contents of which were revealed just hours before the 1:30 a.m. vote, would have eliminated the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate, its employer mandate and changed other key provisions to the current health care law, including temporarily defunding Republican bugbear Planned Parenthood. It was a last resort for Senate Republicans to pass something -- anything -- to trigger negotiations with the House.
Democrats and dissenting Republicans had criticized both the bill's content, which the Congressional Budget Office projected would leave 16 million more uninsured by 2025, and the secretive process that created it. Among them was Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who joined fellow Democrats ahead of the vote to chastise Republican leadership for the complicated legislative process that led to the late-night vote.
"We ought to be ashamed of ourselves," he said. "We ought to do this right."
McCain, who returned to the Senate just days after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, had also scolded his colleagues before voting to move into debate on the legislation. In a statement released after Friday morning's vote, he reiterated his earlier call for bipartisanhip and "regular order" within Congress.
"I’ve stated time and time against that one of the major failures of Obamacare was that it was rammed through Congress by Democrats on a strict party line basis without a single Republican vote," he said. "We must now return to the correct way of legislating and send the bill back to committee, hold hearings, receive input from both sides of aisle, heed the recommendations of nation’s governors, and produce a bill that finally delivers affordable health care for the American people.
"We must do the hard work our citizens expect of us and deserve."
The rejection represents a major blow to the Republican party's agenda and to the legislative promises made by Trump. According to a Slate reporter in the chamber, McConnell was "very clearly angry and shaken" in the aftermath of the vote.
Trump voiced his own displeasure at 2:25 a.m. on Twitter.
3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down. As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 28, 2017