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WASHINGTON (AP) — Two Republican senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — broke with their party and opposed the Senate vote to move ahead on a health care overhaul.
The votes by the two women drew criticism from President Donald Trump, who said, "So we had two Republicans that went against us, which is very sad, I think. It's very, very sad for them."
But their actions earned a shout-out from Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, who hailed the votes as "an act of political courage" that will be remembered by history.
Collins, 64, in her fourth term, is a moderate known for working with Democrats. Last year, the lifelong Republican announced she would not vote for Trump for president.
Trump "does not reflect historical Republican values nor the inclusive approach to governing that is critical to healing the divisions in our country," Collins wrote in an op-ed column in The Washington Post.
Collins has consistently opposed the GOP health care bill, saying it would impose deep cuts to Medicaid that would affect "some of the most vulnerable people in our society," including disabled children and poor seniors. The GOP bill also would cut money for rural hospitals and nursing homes that already are struggling to serve vulnerable populations, Collins said.
"You can't take more than $700 billion out of the Medicaid program and not think that it's going to have some kind of effect," she said earlier this month.
Murkowski, 60, is in her fourth term representing the nation's largest state and chairs the powerful Senate Energy Committee. Murkowski, whose father served as senator and governor, survived a near-death political experience in 2010 when she lost her party's primary but retained her seat as a write-in candidate.
Like Collins, Murkowski has expressed concerns about deep Medicaid cuts in the GOP bill and has called for a bipartisan process to address shortcomings of the current health care law and stabilize individual markets.
Alaska and other rural states have seen insurance markets deteriorate under the law, Murkowski said, with premiums increasing by more than 200 percent in some cases. Only one insurer remains on the state's individual market, and Alaska was forced to enact a costly reinsurance program to keep its sole remaining provider from leaving, she said.
"I cannot vote to proceed to repeal the ACA (Affordable Care Act) without reform that allows people the choice they want, the affordability they need and the quality of care they deserve," Murkowski said.
Collins was the target of a jab this week from Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas, who blamed "some female senators from the Northeast" for blocking the health care legislation. Farenthold said he wished he could challenge them to a duel "Aaron Burr-style."
A live microphone caught Collins Tuesday as she mocked the heavy-set Farenthold: "I don't mean to be unkind but he's so unattractive it's unbelievable."
Collins later said she received a handwritten apology from Farenthold, and she accepted. She also offered him an apology.
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