The US Senate has rejected a Republican-drafted healthcare bill aimed at repealing Obamacare, former Democratic President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law.
The legislation, dubbed the “skinny repeal” bill, failed to pass on the Senate floor 49-51 after hours of intensive debate early on Friday, dealing a major blow to GOP leadership and US President Donald Trump, who had campaigned relentlessly on a pledge to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act approved under his predecessor in 2010.
"The motion is not agreed to. The amendment is not agreed to," the presiding officer of the Senate read out after a televised vote.
The collapse marked the third and last failed attempt by Republicans to replace Obamacare in the past week.
In a shocking move, Senator John McCain, recently diagnosed with brain cancer, provided the crucial vote against the bill, alongside GOP Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski.
McCain’s turnaround came as he had voted twice earlier this week to proceed with opening debate on repealing the Obama-era legislation, which was designed to increase health insurance quality and affordability, lower the uninsured rate by expanding insurance coverage and reduce the costs of healthcare.
“We must now return to the correct way of legislating and send the bill back to committee, hold hearings, receive input from both sides of the aisle, heed the recommendations of nation’s governors, and produce a bill that finally delivers affordable health care for the American people,” McCain earlier said in a statement.
"I thought it was the right thing to do," the Arizona senator told reporters as he left Capitol Hill.
In response to the surprise failed vote on Friday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a speech from the Senate that,"it is time to move on."
"This was a disappointment, a disappointment indeed. What we tried to accomplish for the American people was the right thing for the country," he said. "I regret that our efforts were simply not enough this time. I think the American people are going to regret that we couldn't find another way forward."
Trump had promised during his election campaign, and later as president to introduce a new health system that benefits more Americans at a lower cost.
Reacting to the vote, the US president blamed the three Republican senators for the defeat in a twitter message, saying, "3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down. As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!"
In the most contentious congressional vote of Trump's presidency in May, lawmakers voted 217 to 213 to pass the Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill.
No Democrats backed Trump’s American Health Care Act (AHCA), also known as Trumpcare, and some 20 Republicans voted in opposition. Most of the Republican politicians have long vowed to repeal Obamacare.
Healthcare experts from across the political spectrum have said that Trump’s bill is unworkable, suffers from fatal flaws and could lead to Americans dropping out of the healthcare market.
Experts agree that the bill fails to reach the objectives laid forth by Trump, which includes affordable coverage for everyone, lower deductibles, healthcare costs and better care.