Daines, Tester split votes in growing health care battle

Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines of Montana

Montana Sen. Steve Daines stuck to his push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday, casting one of the 51 votes that sent a new bill to the floor of the U.S. Senate for further debate.

By Wednesday morning, however, Daines was just one of 43 Republican senators who found themselves on the losing end of a push to implement the GOP’s most comprehensive plan to replace the nation’s standing health care law.

Montana Sen. Jon Tester voted against both measures on Tuesday.

“This vote is a slap across the face to hardworking Montanans and rural America,” Tester said. “Washington politicians are taking money out of Montanans’ pockets, jacking up health care costs, and threatening to close rural hospitals that are the only source of health care for thousands of families.”

With the GOP’s first attempt to replace the ACA now dead, the Senate will move forward with additional debate as it works toward a final vote on the future of the nation’s health care system.

While it’s possible that nothing will come from that effort, Daines said he will continue pushing for repeal.

“The American people deserve a debate about repealing Obamacare and replacing Obamacare,” Daines said in a video statement released on Tuesday. “I’ve campaigned for seven years on this, going back to at least 2010 when I ran for the House and then the Senate.”

In recent months, Daines has argued that the ACA is failing and said he wants to see the cost of premiums go down to make health care more affordable. He also believes the Medicaid path “is unsustainable” and threatens to blow both the state and federal budget.

On Tuesday, Daines said he visits all 56 counties “every two years” and has consistently heard Montana voters ask him to repeal and replace the ACA.

However, Daines has been sharply criticized in recent months for not holding town hall meetings, where opponents of his position believe he would get a different take on what the majority of Montana voters want for their health care future.

“Montanans have said they do not want to see a Washington, D.C., legislative solution,” Daines said. “We want to see Montanans back in charge of their health care, and that’s what we’ll be debating here over the next week.”