Less than 24 hours after Sen. John McCain scuttled the GOP's push to repeal Obamacare, Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson confirmed he is working with moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine on a bipartisan health care plan.
"Sen. Collins and I have discussed this issue many times and we are now working together," Nelson said. "As former state insurance commissioners, we know how complicated this issue is and we are working with a small bipartisan group of senators equally dedicated to finding real solutions. This group of senators met for dinner the other night to start sharing our ideas and discussing a path forward."
But Nelson's Florida colleague, Sen. Marco Rubio, threw cold water over a bipartisan health care plan on Friday afternoon.
"I'd love to see a bipartisan effort to repeal and replace Obamacare," Rubio said. "Unfortunately, the growing consensus within the Democratic party, although they didn't have the courage to admit it yesterday, was to vote in favor of a single payer system."
Rubio was referring to an effort by Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines on Thursday to force red state Democrats like Nelson on the record as to whether or not they support a single payer health care system. Instead, the majority of Senate Democrats, including liberals who support single payer like Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, voted "present" instead of yes or no.
"I don't think they (Democrats) are really interested in repealing and I'm not sure we would like the replacement they have in mind because single payer is not a good replacement," Rubio said. "It would make things far worse than what we see now."
Nelson said Friday he and Collins met earlier in the week to begin laying out ideas.
"While the imminent disaster of 20 percent rate hikes and 16 million people losing coverage has been avoided by the defeat of the Republican’s health care bill, now is the time to come together and start working in a bipartisan way to stabilize the market and make health care more affordable," Nelson said.
Rubio said Friday he's "proud" to be in a party that includes moderates like Collins and hard-line conservatives like Utah Sen. Mike Lee, even if it makes it harder to pass legislation.
"I'd rather have them both and be a majority than have a more ideologically concise group but be in the minority," Rubio said.
Rubio, who said he knew that McCain was going to vote against the Obamacare repeal measure dubbed "skinny repeal" about an hour before the dramatic vote early Friday morning, said the effort to repeal Obamacare isn't dead despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announcing "it's time to move on" after the failed vote.
"I imagine dictatorships are a lot more efficient, but I wouldn't want to live in one," Rubio said.