The Senate voted to begin debate on a bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare on Tuesday after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said “we can’t let this moment slip by.”
The 50-50 was announced about 45 minutes after protesters disrupted the chamber by chanting “Kill the bill! Kill the bill!”
Vice President Pence cast the tie-breaking vote.
Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine voted against opening debate.
Two other GOP senators – Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Dean Heller of Nevada – who had opposed the bill changed their minds and voted in favor of the procedural motion.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was greeted with a standing ovation and cheers as he walked on the Senate floor, cast a yes vote just days after being diagnosed with brain cancer.
No Democrats voted for the bill.
“We have a duty to act,” McConnell said before the vote. “The president is ready with his pen. The House has passed legislation. It’s our turn to act.”
McConnell said he told his constituents in Kentucky that he would vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“I’m voting yes, and I would ask all my colleagues to do so,” he said.
McConnell said opening debate would allow all lawmakers to work on making the health care plan better.
Earlier, he warned the Republicans to follow through on their seven-year promise to repeal and replace ObamaCare, echoing comments made by President Trump on Monday that a vote against opening a debate is a vote to preserve the health care plan.
“Any senator who votes against starting debate is telling America that you’re just fine with the Obamacare nightmare,” he said. “I would urge them to remember the families who are hurting under this collapsing law.”
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer urged his GOP colleagues to back away from opening debate.
“I will plead one last time with my friends on the other side of the aisle; and I know you have sincerely tried to modify and change things. Turn back,” Schumer (D-NY) said.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky). who had been a holdout, confirmed in a tweet that he would be on board if the plan was a straight repeal like the 2015 legislation that former President Obama vetoed.
“If that is the plan, I will vote to proceed to have this vote. I also now believe we will be able to defeat the new spending and bailouts,” he wrote.
And Trump said it was time for lawmakers to make good on their vow to get rid of ObamaCare.
“The American people have waited long enough. There has been enough talk and no action for seven years. Now is the time for action!,” he wrote on Twitter.