Sen. John McCain of Arizona’s vote against the “skinny repeal” of Obamacare may have been the most dramatic, but the objections of Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine had already put the bill’s fate in jeopardy.
The Senate’s Republican women, including Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, had been left out of the initial drafting process and derailed the Majority Leader’s mid-July effort to repeal Obamacare in order to replace it further down the road.
While Capito ultimately voted for the bill, Murkowski and Collins held firm on Friday morning and, along with McCain, joined with Democrats to kill the bill.
Here’s who they are.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski
Lisa Murkowski has been a U.S. Senator since 2002, when she was appointed to finish out her father Frank’s term when he was elected governor of the state. She ran for the seat in 2004 and won, but in 2010 she lost the GOP primary to a Tea Party challenger. But ultimately, Murkowski beat both the Tea Party and Democratic candidates and became the first successful write-in candidate since South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond in 1954. She won reelection in 2016.
Murkowski has been wary of the process to replace the Affordable Care Act since it began. She has said she could not support a bill that did not expand coverage and left costs high, but was largely concerned with the approach to Medicaid. She was also against including cuts to Planned Parenthood in a repeal measure. According to the Alaska Dispatch News, a quarter of Alaskans receive health coverage via the entitlement program. In July, Murkowski said that while some Alaskans had told her that she should “stick with the president,” most wanted her to put her state’s citizens first. “Almost without exception, it was, ‘Please Lisa. Protect Alaska’s interests,” the Dispatch News reports she said. “Help us with ensuring that the most vulnerable are cared for, and that when it comes to the access issues that we face, the costs that we face, that you can help us address these.’”
Murkowski vocalized her displeasure with the secretive Obamacare repeal process in late June, telling an Independent Journal Review reporter that she had not seen a draft of the bill because she is “not a reporter and I’m not a lobbyist.” She, along with Sens. Collins and Capito of West Virginia, later came out against Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan to immediately repeal the Affordable Care Act, but hold off on replacing it, effectively killing that effort.
Her opposition to the health care plan made her a target of President Donald Trump, who tweeted that she had “really let the Republicans, and our country, down” when she voted against a motion that led to the Friday morning vote. The administration also reportedly called Murkowski and Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan threatening that there would be consequences over her position on the repeal.
Sen. Susan Collins
Susan Collins, of Maine, was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996 and was last reelected in 2014. She will be up for reelection again in 2020, though she is said to be seriously considering a run for governor of Maine. It would be her second time vying for the governorship—she lost to independent Sen. Angus King in 1994.
Collins has said she could not support the Obamacare repeal because of the impact it would have had on Americans seeking coverage. “I can’t support a bill that will greatly increase premiums for our older Americans,” Collins told MSNBC in June. “I cannot support a bill that is going to result in tens of millions of people losing their health insurance.”
The Maine Republican was also dismayed by the deep cuts to Medicaid that had been proposed under the repeal legislation and the impact it would have on vulnerable citizens including disabled children and poor seniors.”We should not be making fundamental changes in a vital safety net program that’s been on the books for 50 years … without evaluating what the consequences will be,” she said on CNN‘s State of the Union.
In a lengthy statement issued Friday, Collins explained the many reasons why she voted against the measures, including her opposition to proposals that would have stripped funding from Planned Parenthood. “Let me be clear that this is not about abortion,” she said. This is about interfering with the ability of a woman to choose the health care provider who is right for her. This harmful provision should have no place in legislation that purports to be about restoring patient choices and freedom.
Like Murkowski, Collins faced threats as a result of her position on the repeal. The Associated Press reported Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold complained about the opposition the repeal effort had faced from “some female Senators from the northeast.” During a radio interview, he reportedly said, “if it was a guy from south Texas, I might ask him to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style.”
She was later caught on a hot mic discussing the threat, with a Senate colleague telling her he thinks she could “beat the s–t” out of the Representative. “Well, he’s huge,” she said in response. “And he — I don’t mean to be unkind, but he’s so unattractive it’s unbelievable.”