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GOP Women Foiled Their Own Party’s Obamacare Repeal After Being Excluded from the Process

GOP Senators Continue Work On Revised Health Care BillGOP Senators Continue Work On Revised Health Care Bill
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) doesn't support the latest Republican repeal effort. Win McNamee—Getty Images

The failure of Senate Republicans’ last-resort plan to repeal Obamacare—rolling back the law with nothing to replace it—is being called “an epic failure” and “devastating political defeat” for the party, as well as a “major embarrassment for President Trump.”

The nature of the bill’s collapse is something else—just a little bit ironic.

The GOP’s seven-year quest to repeal President Barack Obama’s landmark legislative achievement all but imploded Tuesday night as three Republican senators, Susan Collins (R-Maine), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), vowed to vote down the latest proposal to repeal major parts of the law without replacing them. GOP leaders pushed that fall-back approach after earlier plans to repeal and replace the legislation also failed to garner enough Republican support.

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It’s especially notable that three Republican women delivered what could be the effort’s death blow since Senate Republicans excluded all of their female members from the initial working group convened to decide the fate of Obamacare. Instead, the group was made up of 13 men.

At the time, the move was seen as an effort by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to placate the staunchly conservative arm of his party, but it also alienated the more moderate bloc—including the three female lawmakers—in the process.

At the time, Collins said that leaders “have the right to choose whomever they wish,” and that being left out of the group would not keep her from working on health care.

“I spent five years in state government overseeing the Bureau of Insurance many years ago,” she said, “and I think I can bring some experience to the debate that will be helpful.”

Collins assembled her own working group for health care, which reached out to Democrats for input. And Vox reports that Capito attended a few meetings of the Senate Republicans’ men-only working group to talk about Medicaid, but she was never a full member.

In addition to being male-dominated, the Senate Republicans’ drafting of the bill was historically opaque.

At one point, Murkowski slammed the closed-door process, telling the press, “I am not a reporter, and I am not a lobbyist, so I’ve seen nothing.”

Earlier versions of the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare that scaled back key federal insurance regulations and delivered deep cuts to Medicaid over time failed to gain enough support from conservative Republicans, as it didn’t roll back enough of the existing law’s insurer mandates. The proposals also didn’t appease moderate Republicans, especially those from states that had taken up Obamacare’s offer of expanded Medicaid eligibility, since proposed cuts to the program could have forced states to either slash enrollees’ health care benefits or shoulder a massive new financial load.

Collins, Capito, and Murkowski opposed the latest fallback plan—repeal with no replacement—as irresponsible, saying that it would snatch health care away from Americans who have come to depend on it.

In a statement explaining her stance, Moore Capito said she could not vote to repeal Obamacare without a replacement that meets the needs of her constituents in West Virginia, a state hit especially hard by the growing opioid crisis.

“As I have said before,” the statement says, “I did not come to Washington to hurt people.”