McCain was one of three senators whose support of the bill, known as Graham-Cassidy after its primary co-sponsors, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), hung in the balance ahead of the vote next week.
“I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal,” McCain said in a statement. “I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried. Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will [affect] insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it. Without a full CBO score, which won’t be available by the end of the month, we won’t have reliable answers to any of those questions.”
Without McCain’s support, it is unlikely Graham-Cassidy will pass. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have not committed to supporting the measure. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he will not support Graham-Cassidy.
McCain expressed regret in his decision to vote against the measure put forth by Graham, one of his longtime friends in the Senate.
“I take no pleasure in announcing my opposition,” McCain said. “Far from it. The bill’s authors are my dear friends, and I think the world of them. I know they are acting consistently with their beliefs and sense of what is best for the country. So am I.”
Graham-Cassidy is the latest attempt by Republicans to repeal or repeal and replace former President Barack Obama‘s signature healthcare legislation. Votes by McCain, Murkowski, and Collins sunk the most recent attempt in late July.
The new healthcare bill, which was expected to go up for a vote next week, would eliminate key provisions under Obamacare, including the elimination of Medicare expansion and the requirement that insurance companies cover essential health benefits, and would change the structure of funding to states. It would have also given states the ability to waive regulations under Obamacare for insurance companies that would allow them to charge people with pre-existing conditions higher premiums for coverage.
Graham-Cassidy must come up for a vote before Sept. 30 for it to pass under budget reconciliation, which would allow it to pass with just 51 votes rather than a 60-vote supermajority.
It is unlikely that after Sept. 30, any Republican repeal effort could reach a 60-vote threshold.