Five takeaways from ObamaCare repeal’s collapse

Three Republicans dealt what appears to be a final, fatal blow to their party’s ObamaCare repeal effort on Friday morning after a yearslong odyssey that now leaves the GOP in the wilderness.

Here are five takeaways from this morning’s drama and the monthslong Senate repeal fight.

Leadership is ready to move on

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenators push to clear backlog in testing rape kits Russia raises problems for GOP candidates Deal to fix family separations hits snag in the Senate MORE (R-Texas) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, were among the conservatives urging their colleagues to keep fighting after the dramatic defeat in the Senate.

“I believe ObamaCare will be repealed,” Cruz told reporters after leaving the Senate chamber following Friday morning’s 49-51 vote.

“On the merits, I think we are quite close. I think there are 45 or 46 votes, and I think we’re a few votes away,” he said.

Meadows said a new effort is underway to write a bill that would include proposals offered by Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOvernight Defense: Trump inviting Putin to DC | Senate to vote Monday on VA pick | Graham open to US-Russia military coordination in Syria Polling analyst: Changes to legal immigration ‘the real sticking point among Democrats’ Graham would consider US-Russia military coordination in Syria MORE (R-S.C.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSenate GOP attempts to wave Trump off second Putin summit Bipartisan bill would bring needed funds to deteriorating National Park Service infrastructure The Memo: Trump allies hope he can turn the page from Russian fiasco MORE (R-Ohio.) and Cruz.

“I just think that we’ve got to regroup and continue to stay involved and find something that has 51 votes in the Senate that we can make work,” Meadows told reporters Friday.

ObamaCare repeal has repeatedly come back from the dead this year, and the “skinny” repeal bill defeated on Friday was just a vote away from passage.

The White House and congressional Republican leaders, however, look ready to move on.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Overnight Defense: Trump inviting Putin to DC | Senate to vote Monday on VA pick | Graham open to US-Russia military coordination in Syria Senate to vote Monday on Trump's VA nominee MORE (R-Ky.) in a floor speech said it was time to switch focus, while Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDems unveil slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia National Dems make play in Ohio special election Trump vows to hold second meeting with Putin MORE (R-Wis.) signaled a pivot to tax reform.

“We have so much work still to do, and the House will continue to focus on issues that are important to the American people,” Ryan said. “At the top of that list is cutting taxes for middle class families and fixing our broken tax code. I’m glad that members will now take time to hear directly from those they represent and make the case for historic tax reform that we intend to pursue in the fall.”

Trump in a tweet said ObamaCare would “implode,” which might bring Democrats to the bargaining table. He did not urge a tireless new effort.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSenate GOP attempts to wave Trump off second Putin summit Election security bill picks up new support in Senate Overnight Defense: Fallout from tense NATO summit | Senators push to block ZTE deal in defense bill | Blackwater founder makes new pitch for mercenaries to run Afghan war MORE (R-Mo.), a member of leadership, acknowledged the political reality.

“I think this ends this discussion for a little while,” he said.

Closed process haunts McConnell

Senate Republicans received flack from the beginning of their effort for closing the process to Democrats and keeping their work behind closed doors.

In May, McConnell convened a working group of 13 senators for twice-a-week meetings to discuss a reform plan. No female senators were initially included, and the group leaned toward conservatives and McConnell allies.

Democrats skewered the closed-door process, noting Republicans had criticized their party over the issue when ObamaCare was approved in 2010 — after months of open Senate hearings at which the party pleaded for centrist GOP support.

Worse for McConnell was that the criticism was echoed by Republicans, including two women — Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThis week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick McConnell: Senate to confirm Kavanaugh by Oct. 1 MORE (Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Russia furor grips Washington Overnight Health Care: Novartis pulls back on drug price hikes | House Dems launch Medicare for All caucus | Trump officials pushing ahead on Medicaid work requirements Senate panel to vote next week on banning 'gag clauses' in pharmacy contracts MORE (Maine) — who voted against the final bill.

The third senator to vote no on Friday morning, Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainControversial Trump judicial nominee withdraws Trump vows to hold second meeting with Putin Ex-Montenegro leader fires back at Trump: ‘Strangest president' in history MORE (R-Ariz.), had urged a return to regular order just days before his return to the Senate after a brain cancer diagnosis.

“We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle,” McCain said.

Dems win by staying united

Democrats face a difficult political map in next year’s midterm elections, when they will be defending 25 seats, including two Independents who caucus with Democrats, compared to eight for Republicans.

That should have given the GOP an opportunity to divide the minority party by making Democratic senators in red states up for reelection feel pressure to back a reform bill.

Instead, it was Republicans who wavered.

Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerSenate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Jacky Rosen hits Dean Heller over health care in first negative ad GOP moderates hint at smooth confirmation ahead for Kavanaugh MORE (Nev.), considered the most vulnerable GOP senator up for reelection, faced pressure to oppose the bill from Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R). So did Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who faced opposition from his state’s Republican governor, John Kasich.

While Heller and Portman voted in favor of the final bill, their early opposition to various repeal-and-replace measures delayed McConnell’s efforts.

President Trump’s low approval ratings and the unpopularity of the GOP measures helped Democrats. So did the rising popularity in polls of ObamaCare.

The results were a victory for Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats slam Trump for considering Putin’s ’absurd’ request to question Americans Judge Kavanaugh confounds the left This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation MORE (D-N.Y.), who throughout the process preached Democratic unity.

As McCain cast his vote to kill the legislation, Schumer could be seen on camera waving his arm, urging his members not to cheer. The moment highlighted his control over the caucus.

“Our caucus was so united. Everyone from Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSenate to vote Monday on Trump's VA nominee Senate approves resolution warning Trump not to hand over US officials GOP leader blocks resolution backing intelligence community on Russia MORE to Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Health Care: Trump officials explore importing prescription drugs | Key ObamaCare, drug pricing regs under review | GOP looks to blunt attacks on rising premiums | Merck to lower some drug prices Dems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas MORE was on the same page,” he said Friday morning.

Senate Republican divisions run deep.

Centrist and conservative Republicans were never on the same page, and McConnell’s efforts to win over one side repeatedly cost him votes from the other.

Medicaid quickly emerged as one of the thorniest issues. The Senate GOP bill included deep cuts to Medicaid and a three-year transition to end extra federal funds for Medicaid expansion.

The 20 GOP senators who represent states that expanded Medicaid worried about thousands of their constituents losing coverage. Kasich and Sandoval were loud, politically powerful voices on the issue.

GOP centrists ultimately won that battle, in that the skinny repeal bill included no Medicaid cuts. Conservatives were willing to back the skinny bill with the hope it could be improved in a conference with the Senate.

Yet it was hard to see how something could emerge from that conference that would serve both sides of the debate.

In the end, Republicans couldn’t get the 51 votes necessary to try, as three Republican senators wouldn’t support the skinny bill.

Trump threats backfire

Trump tried to up the pressure on Murkowski after she voted against three critical healthcare votes in one week.

“Senator @lisamurkowski of the Great State of Alaska really let the Republicans, and our country, down yesterday. Too bad!”

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) on Wednesday and threatened to withhold federal support for key economic development projects in the state if Murkowski didn’t line up to support the GOP’s healthcare plans.

The threats backfired badly.

Murkowski didn’t change her vote, and she was reportedly furious about the Zinke call. As the chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, she has power over the Interior Department’s budget, and it’s possible the pressure could have long-term negative effects for Zinke and Trump.