It wasn't easy, and it took quite a bit more drama than anyone expected to see, but Senate Republicans took their first meaningful step this afternoon toward taking health care benefits from millions of Americans.
With Vice President Mike Pence casting a tie-breaking vote, Republicans moved forward on health care reform Tuesday as the Senate successfully passed a key motion to proceed to debate on repealing and possibly replacing Obamacare.
Momentum built over the course of the day as several previously skeptical members announced they would support Senate GOP leaders after they began detailing plans for more votes over the next days to shape the details of the legislation.
It's important to understand what did and did not happen today. Senate Republicans did not, for example, repeal the Affordable Care Act, in whole or in part. Today's 51-50 vote was a procedural step, not a vote on the substance of any health care legislation.
If even one additional GOP senator either missed the vote or voted "no," the Republicans' repeal crusade would have effectively ended today. But with two GOP senators -- Maine's Susan Collins and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski -- voting "no" instead of three, it means the process can and will move forward.
Perhaps the most striking vote was cast by West Virginia's Shelley Moore Capito (R), who assured voters just last week, "I will only vote to proceed to repeal legislation if I am confident there is a replacement plan that addresses my concerns." She appears to have broken her word: there is no replacement plan that addresses her concerns, but Capito voted the way her party told her to on the motion to proceed anyway.
Indeed, Capito, like every other senator, still has no idea what health care reform policy they're moving towards. There is no bill; there is no Congressional Budget Office analysis; there have been no legislative hearings; there has been no scrutiny of the final plan because the plan does not currently exist.
And yet, 50 Republican senators and the far-right vice president voted to move forward toward their amorphous finish line anyway.