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Collins And Murkowski Deserve Your Thanks For The “Skinny Repeal” Fail, Not McCain

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Late last night, Republicans rushed the so-called “Skinny Repeal” to vote. The “Skinny Repeal,” as you likely know, would have repealed vital parts of the Affordable Care Act and leave 16 million more people uninsured, according to the Washington Post.

Politico writes that the vote “collapsed in dramatic fashion early Friday morning,” thanks to three Republicans who voted against the bill: Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Sen. John McCain of Arizona. At 1:29am, the final vote was 49-51.

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McCain was the last to cast his vote, and did so with maximum drama: Telling reporters that they’d have to “watch the show” to find out how he was planning to vote; taking phone calls from the floor with Pence and Ryan.

As a result, much of the coverage of the “skinny repeal” fail is focused on McCain. Some samle headlines:

“The night John McCain killed the GOP’s health-care fight” — the Washington Post

“John McCain’s maverick moment” — CNN

“John McCain saved Republicans from themselves” — Business Insider

“McCain, fighting cancer, turns on GOP and kills health bill” — ABC

Or how about this extremely dramatic description from the New York Times:

Then, early Friday morning, Mr. McCain, showing little sign of his grave illness, strode onto the Senate floor and shocked many of his colleagues and the nation. He sought recognition from the vote counters, turned his thumb down and said “no,” drawing gasps and some applause before returning to his desk.

He had killed the fevered Republican push to undo the Obama-era health care law.

But before we throw a McCain parade, can we remember that the reason the “Skinny Repeal” even *went* to vote is because McCain rushed from brain surgery to cast the final vote to open the debate? Trump praised him on Twitter on just four days ago! “So great that John McCain is coming back to vote. Brave - American hero! Thank you John.”

Instead, let’s turn our attention to Collins and Murkowski, the two Republican Senators — both women — who have been against the “skinny repeal” the Whole. Entire. Time. They were originally joined by another Republican woman Senator, Shelley Moore Capito, who ended up voting for the repeal.

And it sounds like Collins and . Murkowski did a lot of unseen work behind the scenes. Including to persuade McCain to vote with them. Per the Washington Post:

It was the most boring exciting show on earth; high drama and low voices. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), moderates who would be crucial in sinking the bill, surrounded McCain at his Senate desk and spoke with him in hushed tones. McCain smiled, or twitched. He gave a thumbs down — Twitter convulsed: He gave a thumbs down! — but in response to what? It was like the senior class all-night lock-in dance at your high school, but with senior citizens.

And the two women have faced incredible — and extremely childish — pushback from their Republican colleagues from the very beginning. Per the New York Times, they joked that the Republicans might not let them sit next to each other anymore.

Ms. Collins said that as she and Ms. Murkowski, whose Senate desks are adjoining, prepared to turn their thumbs down on Tuesday, they discussed the possibility that the leadership might want to change their seating arrangement to keep them from being bad influences on each other.

And Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas said he’d literally *duel* them, if only they weren’t women (because you can’t duel women!). Per the Associated Press:

A Texas Republican congressman says it’s “absolutely repugnant” that the GOP-led Senate hasn’t acted on repealing the health care law and he singled out “some female senators from the Northeast.” [....] Farenthold complained about some female lawmakers and said, “If it was a guy from south Texas, I might ask him to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style.”

Asked about Murkowski,  Buddy Carter of Georgia said:

“Somebody needs to go over there to that Senate and snatch a knot in their ass.”

(Slate explains this is olde tyme slang for beating someone up.)

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said that Murkowksi’s state of Alaska would see consequences for her vote:

“I fear that the strong economic growth, pro-energy, pro-mining, pro-jobs and personnel from Alaska who are part of those policies are going to stop,” Zinke said.

Let’s also look at *why* the three Republicans voted against the repeal.  Collins and Murkowski said they did so because they could not support defunding Planned Parenthood and because they could not support a bill that leaves millions fewer Americans without healthcare. We’re on board with this! 

However, McCain said he voted against the “Skinny Repeal” because, depending on how generous you’re feeling towards him, it didn’t go far enough in repealing the Affordable Care Act, or it didn’t create a good enough replacement: "From the beginning, I have believed that Obamacare should be repealed and replaced with a solution that increases competition, lowers costs, and improves care for the American people. The so-called ‘skinny repeal’ amendment the Senate voted on today would not accomplish those goals. “ 

Thank Murkowski and Collins for their work and their votes — not McCain. As NARAL president Ilyse Hogue tweeted, “Appreciate Sen. McCain's late breaking conscience, but can't we just admit it was two women who showed early courage and humanity?”

Top photo: Murkowski (L) and Collins (R), both images via Wikimedia Commons

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Erika W. Smith is BUST's digital editorial director. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @erikawynn and email her at erikawsmith@bust.com.

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