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Calls for Bipartisanship Come After Obamacare Repeal Failure

After a late-night vote on an unpopular bill to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act failed early Friday morning, despondent Republican senators opened up the the possibility of a bipartisan push on improving the health care system.

But it remains hard to gauge where the effort may stand, because typically talkative senators weren’t up for talks with reporters. Some were even on the verge of tears or visibly frustrated, such as Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), who walked silently back to his office after the bill went down.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hinted at the possibility of bipartisanship to address health care concerns like market instability when he spoke from the floor after the vote, which he conceded was disappointing.

“Now I think it’s appropriate to ask: What are their ideas?” McConnell said of Democrats. “It’ll be interesting to see what they suggest as the way forward.”

A Gallup poll conducted earlier this month found 16 percent of Americans surveyed said health care was the most important problem currently facing the U.S. That makes it about even with the top issue, dissatisfaction in the government, which 19 percent of respondents cited as the biggest issue.

Many Democrats, such as Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), received McConnell’s signal enthusiastically.

“I was very pleased to hear the focus at the end on bipartisanship,” Wyden told Independent Journal Review after the vote. “I really hope now that we can bring about a sharp turn towards that kind of focus. On these kinds of issues, there’s a lot of opportunity for common ground.”

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) agreed. “There’s a lot of goodwill and we can work together,” he said.

But some Republicans argued their colleagues on the other side of the aisle wouldn’t be interested in working together on a short-term market stabilization measure.

“I don’t believe Democrats have any interest in doing anything productive,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told reporters afterward — an allegation Democrats were quick to refute.

Cruz argued instead that Republican senators would face pressure from constituents in the coming days to return to work on their messy repeal effort.

Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thude (R-S.D.) also downplayed the possibility of working on a bipartisan measure.