PHOENIX — Sen. John McCain sent shockwaves through the Senate early Friday morning when he cast the deciding vote rejecting the GOP’s heath care effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
While his dramatic thumbs-down rejection drew gasps and cheers in Washington, D.C., leaders in Arizona have responded with a mixture of disappointment and frustration — but little in the way of direct criticism in this Republican-heavy state.
Republican Gov. Doug Ducey said he wants to keep working with congressional leaders to find another way to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. He agreed with McCain that the GOP health care legislation so far has not been right for people in their state.
“The governor is disappointed that Congress will be taking a recess without repealing Obamacare,” Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said in a statement. “However, the latest votes can’t be the end of the effort. The problems with Obamacare and the health care insurance markets are real and continue, especially in Arizona.”
Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar used Twitter to comment on the upset, writing that “the House kept its promise, but the Senate let down American families.”
Other Arizona politicians have said little about the vote, which dealt a major setback to President Donald Trump.
Wes Gullett, the head of a Phoenix strategics communications firm who served as McCain’s deputy campaign manager during his 2000 presidential bid, said he wasn’t surprised there hasn’t been a notable response from Arizona.
“The other members of our delegation, and especially the Republicans, have seen the polling numbers on how people felt about the Republican bill,” he said. “People didn’t like it.”
Some “may have been breathing a sigh of relief that John voted the way he did,” Gullett said. He said even the most conservative members will be reluctant to comment because of the uncertainty of what’s to come.
After McCain cast the dramatic, decisive vote that killed the Republican-led “skinny repeal” of Obama’s health care program in the early morning hours, he then called for senators from both sides of the aisle to start over on a proposed law.
McCain said in a statement Friday he was calling on the Senate to “start fresh” on the legislation, with input from both Republicans and Democrats.
“I encourage both sides of the aisle to trust each other, stop the political gamesmanship, and put the health care needs of the American people first,” McCain said.
Ducey had earlier expressed concerns about how legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act could affect Medicaid recipients in Arizona, The governor has said he wants a slower phase-out of higher Medicaid expansion matches, higher inflation adjustments, elimination of a penalty for states that expanded parts of Medicaid early, as well as explicit flexibility for the program covering 1.9 million Arizonans.
“I agree with @SenJohnMcCain that the bill on the table clearly isn’t the right approach for Arizona,” Ducey wrote on Twitter on Thursday afternoon before the vote.
Michael O’Neil, a Tempe pollster who has a radio show and writes a magazine column on Arizona politics, said the lack of much of a reaction around the state could suggest “that maybe it’s recognition that it’s over.” He said the next vote could shift from repeal and replace to improving the Affordable Care Act instead.
McCain was joined by all Democrats and Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in defeating the bill that would have erased several parts of Obama’s program. McCain, who has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, announced Friday in a separate statement that he was returning to Arizona to begin radiation and chemotherapy treatments.