The US Senate has agreed to open debate on health care reform, but rejected the first proposed amendment to repeal and replace Obamacare. Senator John McCain came back after his cancer diagnosis to cast a key vote.
The vote to begin the repeal process was deadlocked at 50-50, with all Senate Democrats voting against the measure. Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote to move forward with the health care debate.
Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were the only two Republican senators who did not vote yes on the measure.
President Donald Trump, who called out his fellow Republicans in a White House address on Monday, referred to it as "a big step."
Soon after starting the debate, however, the chamber voted down the first Republican proposal to actually repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Nine Republicans voted against the initial amendment.
McCain urges colleagues to stop listening to 'loudmouths' in media
Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona returned to an ovation from his colleagues after being diagnosed with cancer last week. While he voted in favor of opening the debate, he later decried the lack of bipartisanship in the Senate and urged his comrades to "trust each other again."
"I know many of you will have to see the bill changed substantially to support it," McCain said, adding that he would not vote for the Republican health care plan "as it is today."
"If this process ends in failure, which seems likely, then let's return to regular order," McCain added as he decried Republican leaders for devising the legislation in secret and "springing it on skeptical members."
"Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio, TV and internet. To hell with them!" the 80-year-old Arizona senator added.
A loss in Tuesday's vote could have sounded the death knell for Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare. Repealing ex-President Barack Obama's signature legislation has increasingly become a Republican priority in recent years and figured prominently in President Trump's campaign rhetoric.
dv/kl (AP, Reuters)