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Lee: Senate failed American people in rejecting 'skinny repeal' of Obamacare



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SALT LAKE CITY — The U.S. Senate failed the American people in rejecting the so-called "skinny repeal" of Obamacare, Sen. Mike Lee said Friday.

Both he and fellow Republican Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch voted for the legislation that the Senate narrowly voted down late Thursday.

"Last night did not turn out the way I hoped, but the result is hardly surprising," Lee said in a statement. "The process on this bill has been terrible from the beginning, and the Senate as an institution failed the American people. All I can promise is that I will keep fighting for more health care options and lower premiums."

After being a holdout on the Senate's efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Lee cast a deciding vote earlier this week in favor of going forward with debate.


Last night did not turn out the way I hoped, but the result is hardly surprising. The process on this bill has been terrible from the beginning, and the Senate as an institution failed the American people.

–Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah


The proposal would have repealed a mandate that most individuals get health insurance and would have suspended a requirement that large companies provide coverage to their employees. It would have also suspended a tax on medical devices and denied funding to Planned Parenthood for a year.

Three Republicans, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, joined the Democrats in defeating the bill 51-49.

“It is deeply regrettable that the Senate was unable to come together to legislate, to focus on the art of the doable, and to keep our promise,” Hatch said in a statement Friday. “Our failure today takes us one step closer to what I’ve long warned of: a socialized health care system run by the federal government.”

Lee addressed the failed health care bill later Friday in his weekly newsletter, calling it "truly an anemic" effort, adding by some estimates it repealed only 2 percent of Obamacare.

Worse than the legislation, he said, was the process that led to the vote.

"The bill was written in secret, with no input from either the formal congressional committees charged with oversight of our health care system, or the informal working group assigned by our leadership to craft the legislation," Lee wrote.

President Donald Trump tweeted shortly after the vote, "3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down. As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!"

Hatch, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said he has worked “assiduously” the past few months to repeal and replace “fundamentally flawed” Obamacare.

The failed repeal means average premiums will continue to skyrocket, leaving people with few, if any, available health insurance options and facing penalties if they don’t buy insurance, he said.

Hatch vowed to continue efforts to repeal the law.

"If Republicans are going to pass great future legislation in the Senate, they must immediately go to a 51 vote majority, not senseless 60," Trump tweeted Friday morning.

He then added, "Even though parts of healthcare could pass at 51, some really good things need 60. So many great future bills & budgets need 60 votes."

Although some have declared repeal and replace dead, Lee said Congress needs to go back to the drawing board.

"What we need to identify is a politically palatable way to give states the freedom needed to craft their own health care solutions," he said.

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Democrat Jenny Wilson, who is running for Hatch’s seat, blasted the senator for joining in the failed effort that she said would have increased health insurance premiums by 20 percent and take coverage from thousands of Utahns.

“Worse, he cast this vote without holding a single hearing in the committee he controls. This is not how Washington should work. There was a time that Orrin Hatch believed in bipartisanship and deliberation on issues important to Utahns, but after his 40 years in the U.S. Senate, Washington has changed and so has he,” Wilson said in a statement.

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Dennis Romboy

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