Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s bid to pass a stripped-down repeal of Obamacare on a party-line vote failed dramatically in the early hours of Friday when Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., joined two other Republican holdouts and all the Democrats to vote against the measure.
McCain stunned several of his fellow Republican senators when he walked onto the Senate floor after midnight and appeared to inform Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican, that he couldn’t vote for the “skinny repeal” bill. Just a few days earlier, McCain flew back to the Capitol from Arizona after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer to cast the deciding vote to begin debating it.
After McCain informed Senate leadership of his decision, McConnell delayed the vote for more than an hour, giving time for members to try to lure McCain as well as Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, back into the fold.
“The untouchables!” McCain exclaimed when Collins joined him and Murkowski on the floor, joking about their outcast status among the caucus.
Vice President Mike Pence, who arrived on the Senate floor to cast what he thought would be a tie-breaking vote to pass a repeal bill, spent more than 10 minutes lobbying McCain on the Senate floor, out of earshot of reporters. Meanwhile, several members of the GOP leadership team surrounded Murkowski, attempting to get her to flip her vote so the measure could still narrowly pass.
At one point, McCain crossed the Senate floor and joined a huddle of ebullient Democrats, hugging Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. — a sign to the reporters watching in the gallery above that Pence’s lobbying had clearly failed. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., later said he and McCain had been in contact four or five times a day over the past few days, and that McCain informed him of his decision after he walked on the floor.
Shortly afterwards, McConnell was forced to concede defeat, holding the vote he knew would fall short by just one member of his caucus.
Here’s a look at protests across the country in opposition to the GOP health care bill.
Demonstrators rally outside of the Capitol as the Republican majority in Congress remains stymied by their inability to fulfill their political promise to repeal and replace “Obamacare” because of opposition and wavering within the GOP ranks, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 27, 2017. (Photo: Cliff Owen/AP)
Senate Democrats gather on the Senate steps with protesters on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 25, 2017. (Photo: Eric Thayer/Reuters)
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
P.J. Espinal (L) and Ronne Denbo join with other protesters against Republican senators who have not spoken up against Affordable Care Act repeal and demand universal, affordable, quality healthcare for all on July 24, 2017 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Demonstrators participate in a Medicare For All march in Bloomington, Ind., Monday, July 24, 2017. The group marched from Rose Hill Cemetery to the Monroe County Courthouse. (Photo: Alex McIntyre/The Herald-Times via AP)
Protesters against the Republic health care proposals block the entrance to the office of Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., at the Russell Senate Office building on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 19, 2017. (Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
Healthcare activists are detained by Capitol Police after gathering to protest the Republican healthcare bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 19, 2017.(Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)
A group demanding Congress to reject the Trump administration’s budget proposals and health care bill, are arrested during a demonstration in the Russell Senate Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 18, 2017. (Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
Capitol Hill police officers prepare to arrest a group protesting the republican healthcare bill outside the offices of Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, July 17, 2017. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)
Healthcare activists protest to stop the Republican health care bill at Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 17, 2017. (Photo: Yuri Gripas/Reuters)
Capitol Hill police officers arrest a group protesting the Republican healthcare bill outside the offices of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, July 17, 2017. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)
Retired family physician Jay Brock of Fredericksburg, Va., joins other protesters against the Republican health care bill outside the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., Monday, July 17, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
Healthcare activists protest to stop the Republican health care bill at Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 10, 2017. (Photo: Yuri Gripas/Reuters)
Demonstrators from Texas sit on the ground and chant, “Kill the bill, kill the bill,” inside the offices of Sen. Ted Cruz while protesting against health care reform legislation in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill July 10, 2017 in Washington, D.C. More than 100 people from across the country were arrested during the protest that was organized by Housing Works and Center for Popular Democracy. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
A staff member asks journalists to leave as demonstrators from Arizona chant, “Kill the bill or lose your job” in the offices of Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) during a protest against health care reform legislation in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill July 10, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
A demonstrator is taken into custody by U.S. Capitol Police as activists protest against the Republican health care bill outside the offices of Sen. Jeff Flake and Sen. Ted Cruz, Monday, July 10, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Demonstrators from Ohio occupy the offices of Sen. Rob Portman during a protest against health care reform legislation in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill July 10, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Beside a Raiders football team flag, healthcare activists hold up signs while occupying the office of Senator Dean Heller to protest the Republican healthcare bill at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., July 10, 2017. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
New York City
New Yorkers and healthcare advocacy groups organized a protest on July 10, 2017, outside Rep. John Faso’s fundraiser as donors arrive at the Park Imperial at 230 West 56th St. in Midtown Manhattan. Faso voted for the House Trumpcare bill in May, he also co-authored the notorious Collins-Faso amendment to both the House and Senate bills that would shift New York Medicaid funding from counties budgets to the state budget. (Photo: Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
People protest at a “Bridging the Gap For Healthcare Rally” on the Roebling Suspension Bridge July 9, 2017 in Covington, Ky. The rally was part of a day of healthcare-related protests in Covington, with another rally being held there tonight lead by Senator Bernie Sanders to urge Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell not to repeal the Affordable Care Act. (Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Protesters gather outside a Sen. Ted Cruz town hall meeting, Thursday, July 6, 2017, in Austin, Texas. Cruz is expressing doubt about whether the Republican plan to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s health care law will pass the Senate, suggesting Thursday that efforts to cobble together enough votes are on shaky ground. Protesters were defending the Obama administration’s health law and waving anti-Cruz signs. (Photo: Eric Gay/AP)
Save Medicaid Rally at Skyline Park near Sen. Cory Gardner’s Denver office July 06, 2017 in Denver. Several hundred protesters gathered to keep up the pressure on Sen. Gardner to vote no on the proposed health care bill, which would limit Medicaid to those in need. Last week ten disabled protesters were arrested after refusing to leave Sen. Gardner’s office after a sit-in protest. (Photo: Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
New York City
A small group of activists rally against the GOP health care plan outside of the Metropolitan Republican Club, July 5, 2017 in New York City. Republicans in the Senate will resume work on the bill next week when Congress returns to Washington after a holiday recess. (Photo: Zach D Roberts/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
New York City
The Socialist Feminists of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) organized a protest outside of the New York County Republican Office in New York City on July 5, 2017 to tell Republicans that is it despicable and undemocratic that they are trying to ram Trumpcare through the Senate without debate or public hearings. (Photo: Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Anne Kille of Flemingsburg, Ky., protests the arrival of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.,at the Lincoln Day Dinner, Friday, June 30, 2017, in Elizabethtown, Ky. (Photo: Timothy D. Easley/AP)
Bella Nichols, 9, of Richland, Miss., shows where she wears her insulin patch that Medicaid helps pay for, as her mother and others meet with staff members of Sen. Thad Cochran in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, June 29, 2017, while other recipients and their supporters stage a protest outside the offices. About 35 participants began the morning protesting the Senate version of the health care overhaul of the Affordable Healthcare Act, at Cochran’s office and by mid morning also carried the protest to the offices of Sen. Roger Wicker in the federal courthouse. (Photo: Rogelio V. Solis/AP)
John Hatcher, right, and Ethan Williams, both of Jonesboro, hold up signs for passing motorists while protesting the healthcare bill in front of the Municipal Center Thursday, June 29, 2017, in Jonesboro, Ark. The Senate GOP’s stalled health care legislation needs to ease some of its limits on Medicaid spending and give greater control of the program to the states, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday (Photo: Staci Vandagriff/The Jonesboro Sun via AP)
Civil disobedience protests were strategically planned and acted out inside and outside Republican Senators offices concerning the Senate healthcare bill in Washington, D.C., Wednesday June 28, 2017. (Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Kingsley Floyd, center, a Waynflete graduate who was arrested at a health care protest in front of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office last week, attends a rally for health care at Lobsterman’s Park in Portland, Maine on Wednesday, June 28, 2017. (Photo: Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
Activists march around the U.S. Capitol to protest the Senate GOP health care bill, on Capitol Hill, June 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. The protest was organized by a wide array of progressive organizations and they are calling for a ‘People’s Filibuster’ around the U.S. Capitol in protest of the GOP health care plan. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
New York City
Jean Ryan from Disabled in Action joins others in protesting against the Senate healthcare bill on June 28, 2017 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Congressmen walk down the House steps as protesters march around the Capitol to rally against the Senate GOP healthcare bill in Washington, Wednesday, June 28, 2017. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)
Glenn Terry dressed as President Donald Trump joins with other protesters at U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) office on June 28, 2017 in Doral, Florida. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Demonstrators protest changes to the Affordable Care Act on June 28, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. After more senators said they would not offer support, senate Republican’s yesterday announced they would delay a vote on their revised health-care bill. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Alessandra Mendolfi protests agains the current GOP health care bill outside of the office of Sen. Marco Rubio, Wednesday, June 28, 2017, in Miami, Fla. (Photo: Lynne Sladky/AP)
U.S. Capitol Police arrest a protester demonstrating against the Senate Republican health care bill, outside the office of Sen. Patrick Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 28, 2017. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
From left, Gale McCray of Ft. Worth, Texas, Alysanne Crymes and Brent Crymes of Conway, Ark., participate in a demonstration at the Capitol as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced he was delaying a vote on the Republican health care bill until after the July Fourth recess, in Washington, Tuesday, June 27, 2017. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Protesters of the Senate Republicans health care bill stage a sit-in outside the office of Sen. Patrick Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 28, 2017. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
People march during a protest against the Republican bill in the U.S. Senate to replace President Barack Obama’s health care law Tuesday, June 27, 2017, in Salt Lake City. Demonstrators with Utah’s Disabled Rights Action Committee chanted and carried signs while blocking State Street Tuesday afternoon. Utah protesters criticized Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch for supporting the bill and say it will cut life-saving Medicaid services and other health protections. (Photo: Rick Bowmer/AP)
People march during a protest against the Republican health bill unveiled in the U.S. Senate to dismantle the Affordable Care Act on Friday, June 23, 2017, in downtown Denver. More than 100 protesters crowded the sidewalk outside the building in which Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., has his office. (Photo: David Zalubowski/AP)
South Gate, Calif.
People rally in favor of single-payer healthcare for all Californians as the U.S. Senate prepares to vote on the Senate GOP health care bill, outside the office of California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, June 27, 2017 in South Gate, Calif. Rendon announced last week that Senate Bill SB 562 – the high-profile effort to establish a single-payer healthcare system in California – would be shelved, saying it was “incomplete.” (Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)