By Pat Kessler

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The health care showdown in the U.S. Senate came to a 50-50 split to debate the repeal and replace Obamacare, so Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote to advance the discussion on an insurance overhaul.

Adding to the drama, Arizona Sen. John McCain traveled to Washington for the vote, despite the Republican being diagnosed with brain cancer just 11 days ago.

The vote was dramatic and controversial, but it was not an up-or-down vote on the Republican health care bill; it was only a vote to go ahead with debate on a health care bill. But no one knows what’s in any future health care bill they’ll be debating.

The vote came after seven years of promises to repeal and replace Obamacare, which Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called a “failed left wing experiment.”

“Our constituents are hurting under Obamacare. They’re counting on us to do the right thing right now,” McConnell said.

Senators aren’t yet sure what bill they’ll be voting on: the replacement bills are shrouded in secrecy, but Democrats say millions of people will lose their health care.

Protesters disrupted the Senate vote, which ended in a 50-50 tie, forcing Pence to cast the deciding vote.

President Donald Trump spent days cajoling and threatening fellow Republicans, and said he was “very happy.”

“I want to congratulate the American people because we will give you great healthcare,” Trump said. “And we are going to get rid of Obamacare, which should have been terminated a long time ago. It’s been a disaster for the American people.”

McCain voted yes for debate but said he won’t vote for the GOP replacement bill as it stands.

“It’s a shell of a bill right now, we all know that,” McCain said.

Both of Minnesota’s Democratic Senators, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, voted no on the motion to move ahead on the health care debate.

Republicans in the Senate just voted to advance a bill that would take healthcare away from millions of Americans. But this isn’t over,” Klobuchar said. “We can still stop this bill. We can still put aside partisanship and instead work together on bipartisan solutions that will help every American. But we can’t give up. Too many families are counting on us.

Sen. Franken says the GOP are going against the wishes of most Americans.

“Let’s be very clear about what just happened: In defiance of a majority of Americans, Senate Republicans have set in motion a dangerous and destructive process that could result in millions of people losing their insurance coverage, the destruction of Medicaid as we know it, and the elimination of nationwide protections for people with pre-existing conditions,” Franken said. “I am going to fight tooth-and-nail to stop Republicans from passing a health care law that hurts Minnesotans.”

Now the U.S. Senate will decide whether to vote on repeal, repeal and replace, and what to replace it with. There are no guarantees any bill will pass.

Pat Kessler