Martha McSally joined several other vulnerable Republican senators in voting with Democrats to bar the U.S. Department of Justice from supporting a lawsuit the U.S. Supreme Court will take up in November that aims to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
McSally and Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Cory Gardner of Colorado, and Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both of Alaska, voted for a procedural motion to let the measure advance. Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema voted in favor of the motion, as well, as did the chamber’s other 46 Democrats.
The motion received 51 votes, a majority of the Senate but short of the 60 votes it needed to pass.
In a press release after the vote on Thursday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee accused McSally and the other GOP senators who voted for the measure of casting a “stunt vote in a desperate attempt to cover up their attacks on the Affordable Care Act and protections for pre-existing conditions coverage,” while simultaneously castigating the 43 Republicans who opposed it of voting “to allow the anti-health care lawsuit that will dismantle protections for pre-existing conditions coverage.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was able to force a vote on the mostly symbolic measure, despite GOP control of the chamber, putting vulnerable Republicans on record barely a month before the election. Democrats have made protections for people with pre-existing conditions, a popular core provision of the Affordable Care Act, a central issue in the elections.
Democrats slammed the Republicans who voted “yes” for opposing the Justice Department’s attempts to overturn the ACA while supporting the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, who wrote an essay in 2017 arguing that Chief Justice John Roberts “pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute” in his 2012 opinion preserving the landmark health care law.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the lawsuit against the ACA on Nov. 10, seven days after the election. Ginsburg’s death and her replacement with Barrett could tilt the court’s balance against the law.
Today’s Senate vote comes less than a week before Arizona election officials send out early ballots to more than 3.1 million voters on Oct. 7. Polls have consistently shown McSally trailing Democratic challenger Mark Kelly, in some cases by double digits.
Kelly has repeatedly attacked McSally for her 2017 vote to repeal the ACA and replace it with a Republican bill that would have allowed states to permit insurers to raise rates for some people with pre-existing conditions if they’d gone without health insurance coverage for at least 63 consecutive days in the previous year. McSally also voted for a largely symbolic measure to repeal the ACA in 2015 while serving in the House of Representatives.
The lawsuit, originally brought by Republican governors and attorneys general, will move forward in the Supreme Court, regardless of whether the Justice Department continues its involvement. Arizona is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, which would affect an estimated 3.1 million Arizonans with pre-existing conditions.
***UPDATED: This story was updated to include a comment from the DSCC and to clarify the motion that was voted on by senators.