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 CruzGillum reached out to O’Rourke amid 2020 speculation: report O'Rourke spoke with Al Sharpton amid 2020 speculation O’Rourke is fireball, but not all Dems are sold 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“I believe ObamaCare will be repealed,” Cruz told reporters after leaving the Senate chamber following Friday morning’s 49-51 vote.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 GrahamCorker to introduce resolution holding Saudi crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi's death Cornyn opens door to including criminal justice bill in government funding measure The Hill's Morning Report — Trump shakes up staff with eye on 2020, Mueller probe MORE (R-S.C.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — Congress to act soon to avoid shutdown On The Money: Trump touts China actions day after stock slide | China 'confident' on new trade deal | GM chief meets lawmakers to calm anger over cuts | Huawei CFO arrested GM chief meets lawmakers to calm anger over cuts 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 McConnellCornyn opens door to including criminal justice bill in government funding measure The Hill's Morning Report — Trump shakes up staff with eye on 2020, Mueller probe Judd Gregg: The government goes geriatric MORE (R-Ky.) in a floor speech said it was time to switch focus, while Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOvernight Defense: Dunford expected to finish Joint Chiefs term | House lawmakers pushing for Yemen vote | Pentagon says a few hundred troops leaving border Ocasio-Cortez: Paul Ryan got called a 'genius' when he was elected at 28, I get accused of being 'a fraud' Meadows looks to make his move 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 BluntHillicon Valley — Presented by AT&T — NRCC exposes security flaws 2 years after Russia hacks | Google Plus to shut down early | Scathing House report scolds Equifax for breach | McCarthy knocks Google ahead of CEO's hearing NRCC breach exposes gaps 2 years after Russia hacks Senate panel advances Trump nominees for election agency 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 MurkowskiSenate advances Trump energy pick after Manchin flips The Senate must reject Bernard McNamee’s nomination for FERC Overnight Defense: Congress pauses to mourn George H.W. Bush | Haspel to brief senators on Khashoggi killing | Soldier is fourth to die from Afghan IED blast MORE (Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenators want assurances from attorney general pick on fate of Mueller probe 5 themes to watch for in 2020 fight for House Judd Gregg: The last woman standing MORE (Maine) — who voted against the final bill.

The third senator to vote no on Friday morning, Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCohen’s pleas concocted by prosecutors to snare Trump Overnight Defense: Senate Armed Services chair eyes Russia, China threats | Pushes Trump not to cut defense budget | Mattis says US looking for more Khashoggi evidence Dem strategist says Trump should not have attended George H.W. Bush's funeral 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 Heller How to reform the federal electric vehicle tax credit White House jumps into fight over energy subsidies One last fight for Sen. Orrin Hatch 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 SchumerFreedom Caucus calls on leadership to include wall funding, end to 'catch and release' in funding bill Push to pay congressional interns an hour gains traction with progressives House approves two-week spending measure to avert shutdown 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) SandersCorker to introduce resolution holding Saudi crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi's death Gillum reached out to O’Rourke amid 2020 speculation: report O'Rourke spoke with Al Sharpton amid 2020 speculation MORE to Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSchumer to Trump: Future infrastructure bill must combat climate change Overnight Energy: Senate confirms controversial energy pick | EPA plans rollback of Obama coal emissions rule | GOP donor gave Pruitt K for legal defense Senate confirms Trump’s controversial energy pick 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.