Sen. John McCain, with a scar from his recent brain surgery, speaks about the GOP-backed health care bill on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday. (C-SPAN 2 via AP)

The vote is cast. On Tuesday, Senate Republicans made at least temporary progress in their ongoing crusade, mandated by President Trump, to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

In a 51-50 vote, with the breakdown predictably splitting along party lines, GOP senators succeeded in taking their latest version of health care legislation to the point of debate.

Vice President Mike Pence had to break a tie vote, even though a handful of Republicans whose support was far from guaranteed ended up throwing in with their cohort. CNN reported Tuesday afternoon:

The next step is floor debate on the legislation to overhaul the Affordable Care Act even though there aren’t any guarantees the votes are there to eventually pass it — and it’s unclear what a final bill will look like.

The vote was up in the air until the last moments, when several Republican holdouts announced their support, including Sens. Rand Paul, Dean Heller, Rob Portman and Shelley Moore Capito.

Trump, who has repeatedly said he’s ready to sign any repeal legislation, celebrated the vote, which creates a path to give him the major congressional victory that’s eluded the White House thus far.

“I’m very happy to announce that with zero of the Democrats’ votes, the motion to proceed on health care has moved past and now we move forward toward truly great health care for the American people. We look forward to that. This was a big step,” Trump said at a White House news conference.

CNN also mentioned Trump’s show of gratitude to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. McCain made his return to Capitol Hill for the first time since the news broke that he was combating an aggressive form of brain cancer. Although he sided with his party for this round, McCain told his colleagues that he doesn’t expect their health care mission to ultimately succeed (per Politico):

“Our health care insurance system is a mess,” McCain said on the floor, adding of Obamacare: “We Republicans have looked for a way to end it and replace it with something else without paying a terrible political price. We haven’t found it yet, and I’m not sure we will. All we’ve managed to do is make more popular a policy that wasn’t very popular when we started trying to get rid of it.”

He nudged Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to abandon the one-party approach to passing a health care bill and start over, with committee hearings and a standard process, as Democrats have long urged.

“Why don’t we try the old way of legislating in the Senate, the way our rules and customs encourage us to act?” McCain said. “If this process ends in failure, which seem likely, then let’s return to regular order.”

And he didn’t stop at health care. McCain declared that even with full control of Congress and the White House, the GOP is “getting nothing done” beyond the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

He never mentioned President Donald Trump by name in the speech, but denounced “the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the internet” — a subtle reference to the bitterly partisan culture that Trump has only intensified since entering the political arena. McCain’s wife Cindy, reportedly poised to take a job in Trump’s State Department, joined him in the Senate and greeted GOP leaders warmly outside the chamber.

Critics of the bill were quick to respond on social media, drawing attention to the apparent contradiction — not to mention irony — of a critically ill senator, able to avail himself of the first-class health benefits offered to all members of Congress, casting his vote in favor of a bill he didn’t support, and one that would strip millions of Americans of their own health coverage.

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

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