Update: Gov. Doug Ducey named John Kyl as McCain's replacement in the Senate on Tuesday, September 4. Read more about his views on the ACA below.
Many view John McCain’s vote against the Health Care Freedom Act (“skinny repeal”) in July 2017 as the nail in the coffin for legislative efforts to undo the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The thumbs-down that accompanied his vote became iconic.
What fewer remember, however, is what unfolded before and after.
McCain said his vote on skinny repeal would be “largely guided by Governor Ducey's analysis of how it would impact the people of our state.” Doug Ducey said the ACA was “a disaster for Arizona,” and repeatedly called for its repeal, though he agreed that bill was “clearly [not] the right approach for Arizona.”
Ducey encouraged McCain to vote for a last-ditch repeal effort sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and Bill Cassidy, R-La., at the very end of the fiscal year. But McCain was hesitant, urging the Senate “to go through the regular order.”
The GOP ultimately decided not to bring that bill to a vote, which Ducey suggested was due to McCain's adherence to procedure.
Ducey is reportedly considering eight individuals to fill McCain’s Senate seat, GOP insiders told The Arizona Republic, The New York Times and CNN. Whether they will continue McCain’s legacy of bucking partisan trends remains to be seen. Not all have publicly expressed their views on the law, though most of those who have are hostile toward it.
The appointment comes as Republicans have indicated they would be open to taking another run at ACA repeal depending on the outcome of the meetings. This week, GOP leaders said they want McCain's replacement to be a "strong ally" in repeal efforts.
Kyl and Shadegg both voted against the Affordable Care Act in 2009. Shadegg was especially vocal about his opposition to the bill, publishing pieces in the Arizona Capitol Times, Townhall and The Hill detailing his stance.
Kirk Adams is currently Ducey’s chief of staff. Speaking on behalf of the governor, Adams said last year that the ACA is “really hurting people.” When Adams ran against Salmon for Congress in 2012, Sarah Palin said he would help lead the fight to repeal the healthcare law.
One contender, however, may be a bit friendlier toward the law. Eileen Klein is currently State Treasurer, but a few years ago, she served as chief of staff for former Governor Jan Brewer
Despite being a conservative Republican, Brewer expanded Medicaid in Arizona and defended her choice as “a moral issue.” That decision led Politico to call her “Obamacare’s unlikely ally.”
If Brewer’s former chief of staff feels similarly, perhaps Klein would be an unlikely ally to the ACA as well.
The other three possibilities have not publicly indicated their views on the ACA. Those individuals include Barbara Barrett, a businesswoman, pilot and diplomat; Karrin Taylor Robson, a member of the Arizona Board of Regents and founder of a land-use strategy company; and Cindy McCain, a businesswoman, philanthropist and the senator’s widow.