McCain to vote no on ObamaCare repeal

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCongress must use bipartisan oversight as the gold standard The Hill's Morning Report — Ford, Kavanaugh to testify Thursday as another accuser comes forward Trump hits McCain on ObamaCare vote MORE (R-Ariz.) on Friday announced that he will vote against the latest proposal to repeal ObamaCare, potentially dooming the legislation and, with it, the GOP's last shot at passing a health-care overhaul this year.

“I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried," he said in a statement, referring to the legislation spearheaded by GOP Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP opens door to holding Kavanaugh committee vote this week Press: Judge Kavanaugh must withdraw Kavanaugh: 'I will not be intimidated into withdrawing' MORE (S.C) and Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyOvernight Health Care: GOP plays defense over pre-existing conditions | Groups furious over new Trump immigration proposal | Public health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Overnight Health Care: Opioids package nears finish line | Measure to help drug companies draws ire | Maryland ObamaCare rates to drop Overnight Health Care: HHS diverts funds to pay for detaining migrant children | Health officials defend transfers | Lawmakers consider easing drug company costs in opioids deal MORE (La.).

Republicans have been racing toward a vote on health care next week, ahead of a Sept. 30 deadline for approving the bill on a majority vote.

They had been hopeful that McCain's close friendship with Graham and the support for the bill from Arizona's governor would be enough to win him over.

McCain suggested the decision had weighed on him, adding that he takes "no pleasure" in it.

“The bill’s authors are my dear friends, and I think the world of them. I know they are acting consistently with their beliefs and sense of what is best for the country. So am I," he said.

Graham quickly weighed in on McCain's decision, saying he disagrees but their friendship will survive.

"My friendship with John McCain is not based on how he votes but respect for how he’s lived his life and the person he is," he said on Twitter.

Graham added that "I respectfully disagree" with McCain and "intend to push forward for state-centric health care vs Washington-knows-best health care."

Cassidy said he was "disappointed" in McCain's decision but pledged that he would continue to work for families "being penalized because they can't afford insurance."  

Supporters of Graham-Cassidy, which is also co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonKavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow House panel advances DHS cyber vulnerabilities bills MORE (Wis.) and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerOvernight Health Care: GOP plays defense over pre-existing conditions | Groups furious over new Trump immigration proposal | Public health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children GOP plays defense on ObamaCare’s pre-existing conditions Heller embraces Trump in risky attempt to survive in November MORE (Nev.), argue that it's the GOP's last chance to keep their promise to roll back former President Obama's signature law.

The bill seeks to give more power to the states by converting dollars currently spent on ObamaCare’s subsidies and Medicaid expansion into block grants to states. The bill would also allow states to waive ObamaCare regulations, including those protecting people with pre-existing conditions from being charged higher premiums.

Though McCain's opposition doesn't formally kill the legislation, it leaves leadership with a daunting task: Winning over every other member of a caucus that includes both moderates and firebrand conservatives. 

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has already said he opposes the bill because it doesn't go far enough in repealing ObamaCare.

Other senators fear the bill's impact on state budgets and insurance coverage. Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsRosenstein faces Trump showdown Kavanaugh: I'm asking for a 'fair process' Collins: Second Kavanaugh accuser should speak with Senate panel under oath  MORE (R-Maine) on Friday said she is "leaning against" the bill, and several other key senators — including GOP Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiPolice arrest 128 protesting Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill GOP launches counteroffensive on Kavanaugh Kavanaugh protesters descend on Collins, Flake offices on Capitol Hill MORE (Alaska) — remain on the fence.

Three "no" votes would be enough to kill the legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFord's lawyer: Hearing doesn't appear to be designed for 'fair', 'respectful' treatment GOP opens door to holding Kavanaugh committee vote this week Press: Judge Kavanaugh must withdraw MORE (R-Ky.) earlier this week said he intends to hold a vote on Graham-Cassidy next week, but McCain's announcement throws those plans in doubt.

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstGOP senator divorcing from husband GOP senators introduce bill to preserve ObamaCare's pre-existing conditions protections Pence: Trump’s national security will be as 'dominant' in space as it is on Earth MORE (R-Iowa), speaking at a town hall in Iowa City, floated that next week's vote could be pulled. 

"I'll be honest, it seems unlikely that we'll be voting on this," she said, according to The Washington Post.

Republicans had been open with their skepticism that the Graham-Cassidy legislation could get the needed 50 votes.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyFord's lawyer: Hearing doesn't appear to be designed for 'fair', 'respectful' treatment GOP opens door to holding Kavanaugh committee vote this week Press: Judge Kavanaugh must withdraw MORE (R-Iowa) told Iowa reporters that Republicans were still at least two votes short "and I don’t see those other one or two votes coming." 

And Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrump changes mean only wealthy immigrants may apply, says critic The Hill's Morning Report — Ford, Kavanaugh to testify Thursday as another accuser comes forward Viral video shows O’Rourke air-drumming to the Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’ after Cruz debate MORE (R-Texas) told conservative radio host Michael Berry that "it's not clear if we're going to get to 50 votes or not." 

McCain, who has brain cancer, cast the decisive vote that halted the GOP's first ObamaCare repeal effort over the summer. With a dramatic thumbs down on the Senate floor, he stopped that legislation in its tracks.

Murkowski and Collins also voted against that "skinny" repeal bill.

McCain at the time complained the legislation had been rushed to the floor without going through the normal committee process, and he leveled that same complaint against Graham-Cassidy.

“I would consider supporting legislation similar to that offered by my friends Senators Graham and Cassidy were it the product of extensive hearings, debate and amendment. But that has not been the case. Instead, the specter of [the] Sept. 30 budget reconciliation deadline has hung over this entire process," he said on Friday. 

McCain also said he couldn't back the bill without seeing a full analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). 

Without a CBO score, McCain said, lawmakers have no "reliable answers" to questions about how much the bill will cost, how many people will be covered and how it will affect insurance premiums. 

The CBO has said its analysis won't be ready until next month.

McCain urged his colleagues to try to craft a bipartisan healthcare bill using "regular order." 

"We should not be content to pass health-care legislation on a party-line basis, as Democrats did when they rammed Obamacare through Congress in 2009. If we do so, our success could be as short-lived as theirs," he said. 

Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care: GOP plays defense over pre-existing conditions | Groups furious over new Trump immigration proposal | Public health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: GOP plays defense over pre-existing conditions | Groups furious over new Trump immigration proposal | Public health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Malnutrition Awareness Week spotlights the importance of national nutrition programs Senate Dem: Republicans have 'predetermined' outcome of Kavanaugh hearing MORE (D-Wash.) had been leading bipartisan talks to try to get a deal on a bill that would stabilize the individual insurance market. 

But those talks were put on hold earlier this week after the White House and Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDems fight to protect Mueller amid Rosenstein rumors Jordan wants Rosenstein to testify before House Judiciary Committee Kamala Harris calls for Senate to protect Mueller probe as Rosenstein faces potential dismissal MORE (R-Wis.) warned they would not support a bill stabilizing ObamaCare.

McCain said Alexander and Murray had been "negotiating in good faith" and urged them to resume their talks if a third GOP senator comes out against the ObamaCare repeal bill. 

"I fear that the prospect of one last attempt at a strictly Republican bill has left the impression that their efforts cannot succeed," he said. "I hope they will resume their work should this last attempt at a partisan solution fail." 

Senate Democratic leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump slams Sessions in exclusive Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation MORE (N.Y.) expressed a similar hope.

“John McCain shows the same courage in Congress that he showed when he was a naval aviator," Schumer said. "I have assured Senator McCain that as soon as repeal is off the table, we Democrats are intent on resuming the bipartisan process.”

Late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel, who has been waging a crusade against the Graham-Cassidy bill, hailed McCain as a hero.

— This report was updated at 3:20 p.m.