Following the defeat of the Senate Republican-led attempt to pass a “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by a 51-49 vote, Rhode Island senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse stopped by the press room at T.F. Green Airport to address members of the media about steps forward from here to resolve continuing issues with the country’s healthcare system.
“This was a victory of the American people,” Senator Reed said. “It was the thousands of Americans all across this land…who came out and made it clear that they needed healthcare; that their families depended upon it, that their ability to compete and contribute to the country depended upon it. So for them, this is a moment that is important and significant.”
Reed thanked the three Republican senators – John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – for voting “no” despite facing “extraordinary pressure” from their fellow Republicans. Every other Republican senator voted for the repeal.
Despite the close call, neither Reed nor Whitehouse were surprised that the bill failed on the Senate floor. Whitehouse called the bill a “random torpedo fired at the health insurance system with no goodness in it and with no mechanism for rescue for the millions of Americans who would be thrown into a state of no health insurance as a result of it.”
“It was not shocking last night when this measure was defeated because this bill was hastily put together. It was not brought forward in a way where even Republicans could contribute in a significant way,” said Reed. “It is an example, I think, of really how not to do healthcare reform and major legislation.”
Now that the attempt to repeal has officially failed, the senators expressed hope that there can be a real attempt on Capital Hill to come together in a bipartisan effort to address the issues that still exist within the healthcare system. They both agreed there would have to be a short “cooling off” period first, however.
“Now it’s not just an issue of opposing something, it’s an issue of coming together – Democrats, Republicans, state leaders and national leaders, doctors and patients – everyone coming together to try to craft and improve the existing healthcare system,” Reed said. “I hope the lesson is that we can do things together, it’s hard to do them alone.”
Although Whitehouse said that a sense of “tenderness” was palpable on the Senate floor after the vote, rather than any significant bitterness, he stated it remains to be seen whether this White House administration will continue to place their own agenda above the needs and well-being of the American people.
“This administration needs to make a very significant decision about how grown-up they’re going to be about trying to make sure that Americans aren’t hurt for them to make a political point,” Whitehouse said. “There’s not a lot we can do about it other than to call them out, because we [Democrats] are the minority on both sides, and legislation is a slow response to a much quicker administrative decision-making capability that the administration wields.”
Reed said that he expects legislators to get to work on a bipartisan effort to pick up where they left off before the repeal attempt began soon, and it was reported by Politico on Sunday that about 40 Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives were working on a slew of potential fixes to the ACA.
To Reed, this is the type of potential legislation that is wanted by the American people.
“I think the message that came through loud and clear from the American people was, ‘Fix our healthcare, don’t take it from us,’” he said.