In a stunning turn of events early Friday morning, Senate Republicans failed to garner a simple majority for a so-called 'skinny repeal' bill, widely viewed as their last chance to continue the process of repealing and replacing at least some significant elements of Obamacare.
The final vote was 49-51, with John McCain, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins helping Democrats kill the bill -- which leadership insisted was merely a vehicle to get to a conference committee with members of the House of Representatives.
What comes next is unclear, but what does seem clear is that Senate Republicans are incapable of taking virtually any action to fulfill the promise on which they ran for seven years. Pathetic. The "skinny bill" process was ugly and at times even farcical. Despite its positive components, the pared-down legislation would not have become law, and should not have become law, due to its structural problems. But the aim was to get the sausage-making to one last stage before proceeding to votes on a final bill in both houses. Three Republicans and 48 Democrats ended that process, leaving America's sputtering status quo in place, and returning Congress to square one.
Following the vote, a visibly frustrated Mitch McConnell declared the outcome a bitter disappointment, again emphasizing Obamacare's ongoing failures. Not only are they not going away, they're deepening. And they're still actively harming millions of people -- victims of a terrible law built on lies. It's now more obvious than ever that lying to voters about healthcare is not relegated to one political party. Thus, it's back to the drawing board and a "bipartisan" process in which Chuck Schumer and his party now hold quite a bit of leverage, thanks to the GOP's failures. McConnell icily said he's eager to hear Democrats ideas, noting that a single payer proposal was unanumously defeated (with dozens of Democratic abstentions) on Thursday. He also said that taxpayer-funded bailouts of insurance companies with no real reforms to Democrats' failing law is not a solution that he or most Republicans would be interested in supporting:
Perhaps it's possible that some form of Republican-led Obamacare repeal effort will be revived at some point -- but unless Republicans hold the House and expand their majority in the Senate in 2018, anything resembling repeal seems to be dead in the water. That's certainly how McConnell's speech sounded earlier. Barring an unforeseen resurgence of GOP unity and fortitude, Obamacare is more or less here to stay; the only open question is how Democrats and Republicans will agree (or not) to adjust it, trim it back, or prop it up. Obamacare is failing, foisting shrinking access and soaring costs upon millions of dissatisfied consumers. And now the two major parties share joint ownership of it.
Having suffered a demoralizing loss, Congressional Republicans will now attempt a major, complex overhaul of the tax code, which is no small task. Between this week's truly embarrassing palace intrigue at the White House, and the evident willingness of some Senate Republicans to betray voters by abandoning a core promise the Republican Party is in a shambolic state. The party begged voters to give them back the House, then the Senate, then the White House.
Over the course of several election cycles, voters did precisely that - with Obamacare repeal being an across-the-board rallying cry. And now this. Sickening.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor - HERE.