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Washington • After the GOP-led Senate was unable to pass any legislation to gut Obamacare, including a dramatic one-vote loss early Friday, Sen. Mike Lee said the chamber "failed the American people." Sen. Orrin Hatch regretted the Senate couldn't "keep our promise."
The Utah Republicans vowed to continue to work on measures to change Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act, even as President Donald Trump suggested the best course would be to let the Democrats' 7-year-old health care law fail on its own. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said it is time to move on, indicating that the Senate may turn its attention to other topics in the coming days.
"As I said from the beginning, let Obamacare implode, then deal," Trump tweeted Friday morning, hours after Republicans were unable to muster a majority to pass what was called a "skinny repeal" bill that would have jettisoned some Obamacare rules, including a requirement to buy insurance or pay a fine.
Trump said three Republicans and the Senate's Democrats "let the American people down."
GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine and John McCain of Arizona broke with their party to oppose the bill. It failed 51-49.
Lee, whose office said he was undecided up until the vote occurred near midnight Utah time Friday, didn't mince words in a statement about the Republicans' efforts to repeal or change the Affordable Care Act. Senate leaders released the final "skinny repeal" bill only two hours before the scheduled vote.
"Last night did not turn out the way I hoped, but the result is hardly surprising," Lee said. "The process on this bill has been terrible from the beginning and the Senate as an institution failed the American people. All I can promise is that I will keep fighting for more health care options and lower premiums."
Lee had pushed for a stronger repeal of Obamacare, saying the Senate version didn't go far enough to toss out some of the law's strict requirements. He pushed an amendment that would have allowed a health insurer to offer a basic plan that didn't meet Obamacare rules as long as it offered one that did.
Hatch, who heads the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over health care reform, had said all week as Republicans attempted to pass bills to do away with parts of Obamacare and lamented on Friday that none of them could garner enough votes.
"It is deeply regrettable that the Senate was unable to come together to legislate, to focus on the art of the doable, and to keep our promise," Hatch said in a statement Friday morning, adding that a failure to pass a GOP bill would mean fewer health care options, premiums would skyrocket and more government subsidies would be necessary.
"Our failure today takes us one step closer to what I've long warned of: a socialized health care system run by the federal government," Hatch said. "Moving forward, I will continue my efforts to replace this flawed law with patient-centered reforms that will actually improve the health care system for all Americans."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., noted Hatch is one of the people he believes can work across the aisle to pass legislation to fix Obamacare's shortcomings.
"I would say to my dear friend, the majority leader, we are not celebrating. We are relieved," Schumer said on the Senate floor after the GOP bill failed. "And millions and millions of people who would have been so drastically hurt by the three proposals put forward will at least retain their health care, be able to deal with pre-existing conditions, deal with nursing homes and opioids that Medicaid paid for."
Obamacare wasn't perfect, Schumer added, and Democrats stand ready to work with Republicans through the committee process to find the best solution.