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McCain return doesn’t alter Northwest votes on Obamacare changes

UPDATED: Wed., July 26, 2017

Seate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., joined from left by, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., speaks with reporters outside the chamber after Vice President Mike Pence broke a 50-50 tie to start debating Republican legislation to tear down much of the Obama health care law, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 25, 2017. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)
Seate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., joined from left by, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., speaks with reporters outside the chamber after Vice President Mike Pence broke a 50-50 tie to start debating Republican legislation to tear down much of the Obama health care law, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 25, 2017. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)
By Jim Camden and Betsy Z. Russell The Spokesman-Review

Senators from Washington and Idaho welcomed colleague John McCain back to the Senate Tuesday, but the veteran lawmaker’s appearance didn’t change their votes.

Washington Democrats voted no on the motion to proceed with a bill to make major changes to Obamacare warning that it could have catastrophic effects on millions of Americans.

Idaho Republicans voted yes, saying the Senate should at least have a chance to debate a wide range of ideas and amendments and make good on a promise to repeal the current law.

Washington Sen. Patty Murray praised McCain for fighting his health problems “the way he has fought back against challenges all his life.” The Arizona Republican had surgery to remove a blood clot behind his left eye on July 14 and doctors found a tumor since diagnosed as an aggressive form of brain cancer.

His return to Washington, D.C., had been uncertain, but by coming to the Senate on Tuesday he gave Republicans the necessary votes they needed to continue debate on legislation to repeal or replace at least some portions of the Affordable Care Act. After that vote passed 51-50, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie, McCain took to the floor. He denounced partisanship, urged members of both parties to work together to come up with new legislation “the old way” – through committee hearings with testimony from experts and interested parties.

Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo called Tuesday’s vote the first step to fulfill a promise to repeal Obamacare, and he voted yes to move forward on the debate, where he will “keep in mind the views and opinions expressed to me by Idahoans.”

Crapo would appreciate a strong bipartisan debate as McCain suggested, spokesman Lindsay Nothern said, “as long as it results in reforms needed to save the insurance markets that are faltering.”

Idaho seatmate Jim Risch said he voted against the current law in 2009 and said Tuesday’s vote would allow the Senate to work on a health care solution driven by the public’s need, “not the wants and needs of the federal government.”

Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell said the vote “declares war on Medicaid” and could result in taking health care away from millions. Even before McCain’s plea for bipartisanship, she’s been urging Republicans to work with Democrats to improve the existing law.

A few minutes after the vote, Murray told reporters it was a “last-ditch effort” to pass a bill that many senators haven’t seen and create “the worst health care plan our country has ever seen: Trumpcare.” It could lead to higher costs, create a loss of federal money for Planned Parenthood, throw tens of millions off coverage and provide no guarantee of coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions, she said.

“It was great to have Sen. McCain back in the Senate today,” she said later. “His words about bipartisanship and the need for Democrats and Republicans to work together were very well received and I’m hoping they will be taken to heart.”

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