(BIVN) – Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono delivered an emotional, late-night plea on the floor of the Senate right before the vote on a GOP “skinny repeal” of Obamacare, and it may have worked.
The motion failed with a 51-49 vote that went down party lines, with the exception of three Republicans who voted no, killing the measure.
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) joined a John McCain (R-AZ) in opposition to the slimmed-down package that intended to repeal and replace Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
McCain gave his deciding “thumbs down” in dramatic fashion during the floor vote. McCain, like Hirono, is engaged in a fight with cancer. Although the two senators operate on different sides of the aisle politically, they have shared a kinship in recent weeks as patients battling similar diseases; Hirono cancer of the kidney and McCain cancer of the brain.
“I would say that I am probably the only senator here who was not born in a hospital,” Hirono began her speech. “I was born at home in rural Japan. I lost a sister to pneumonia when she was only 2 years old in Japan. She died at home. Not in a hospital, where maybe her life could have been saved.”
“It’s hard for me to talk about this,” Hirono said fighting back tears. “I think you can tell.”
“Growing up as a young girl in Hawaii, my greatest fear was that my mother would get sick,” Hirono continued. “And if she got sick, how were we going to pay for her care? How would she go to work? And if she didn’t go to work, there would be no pay, there would be no money. I know what it’s like to run out of money at the end of the month.”
“That was my life as an immigrant here,” the Democrat from Hawaii said. “And now here I am, a United States Senator. I am fighting kidney cancer, and I am just so grateful that I had health insurance so that I could concentrate on the care that I needed rather than how the heck I was going to afford the care that was going to probably save my life.”
“When I was diagnosed with kidney cancer and facing my first surgery, I heard from so many of my colleagues – including so many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle – who wrote me wonderful notes, sharing with me their own experience with major illness in their families or with their loved ones,” Hirono said.
“You showed me your care. You showed me your compassion,” Hirono said to Senate Republicans. “Where is that tonight?”
Then Hirono spoke of Sen. John McCain, although she said ‘John McConnell’ during the late night speech, describing how she listened to him “calling on us to have hearings, to do the right thing, and I’m just saddened that he was not able to move us in that direction. I would call on him tonight to vote his conscience, to vote with us, to say, ‘we are going to stand for the millions of people in our country who will be hurt by what we are contemplating tonight.'”
McCain ended up giving the skinny repeal a ‘no’ vote. Hirono’s office later confirmed the Hawaii senator was speaking of McCain in her speech.
Although he voted ‘yes’ to open debate on an Obamacare repeal a few days ago, McCain intimated that he might break from voting along party lines during a rousing speech on the Senate floor that received bipartisan applause.
After voting to kill the Obamacare repeal, McCain issued this statement:
“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. While the amendment would have repealed some of Obamacare’s most burdensome regulations, it offered no replacement to actually reform our health care system and deliver affordable, quality health care to our citizens. The Speaker’s statement that the House would be ‘willing’ to go to conference does not ease my concern that this shell of a bill could be taken up and passed at any time.
“I’ve stated time and time again 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. We should not make the mistakes of the past that has led to Obamacare’s collapse, including in my home state of Arizona where premiums are skyrocketing and health care providers are fleeing the marketplace. 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.”
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) conceded defeat in a speech after the vote.
“This is clearly a disappointing moment,” McConnell stated. “From skyrocketing costs to plummeting choices and collapsing markets, our constituents have suffered through an awful lot under Obamacare. We thought they deserved better. It’s why I, and many of my colleagues, did as we promised and voted to repeal this failed law. We told our constituents we would vote that way. When the moment came, most of us did. We kept our commitments.”
“We worked hard,” McConnell continued, his voice shaking with emotion, “and everybody on this side can certainly attest to the fact that we worked really hard — to try to develop a consensus for a better way forward. And I want to thank everybody in this Conference for the endless amount of time that they spent trying to achieve a consensus to go forward. I also want to thank the president and the vice president who couldn’t have been more involved or more helpful.”