Sens. Murray, Cantwell on McCain's stunning vote ... and what to do now

SEATTLE -- Sen. Patty Murray felt the weight of hundreds of constituents on her back late Thursday night as the Senate voted on a slimmed-down Obamacare repeal bill.

The weight piled high as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., approached the floor, she said.

But with a simple "no" from McCain, Murray said that weight -- if only temporarily - was lifted.

"When John cast that vote, the relief was overwhelming that people could wake up this morning and feel a little more secure," Murray said in a phone interview with Q13 News.

Gasps rang out in Senate chambers when McCain cast his vote to effectively kill a bill that would have cut into Obamacare's core, and been a big win for Senate Republicans. McCain's thumb down was widely reported, and seemed to give the chamber some impromptu theater that isn't often seen these days.

The last time Murray remembers such emotion was when former Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., returned to the Senate following a diagnosis of brain cancer to vote for the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare.

"When Senator Ted Kennedy came back to cast a vote on health care, no one knew he would return and when he walked through the door it was an overwhelming feeling," Murray said.

Sen. Maria Cantwell agreed. Such emotion is not often seen on the Senate floor.

"It was a pretty dramatic moment late last night or early this morning," Cantwell told Q13 News. "It was one of these things where it could really have gone either way."

Murray also praised Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska for voting against the "skinny repeal" measure. She said both women have talked to her about moving forward on health care, and their moves were emblematic of women in politics.

"That's a lot of what women do," Murray said. "They listen to each other, they hear each other and absorb what they're saying and want to work to find solutions."

Cantwell says looking forward, tough work needs to be done in committee with policy decisions made to better improve health care's individual market.

"Going back and focusing on the 7  percent of Americans who buy in the individual market and trying to get them affordable health insurance is what we need to focus on," Cantwell said.

A sense of security and stability needs to be the greatest priority, Murray said.

Murray has been in frequent talks with Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Health, Educationon, Labor & Pensions Committee.  Murray is the ranking Democrat on that committee.

Alexander and Murray have worked together previously, and hope to come to a bipartisan agreement when it comes to improving the nation's health care -- making health care more affordable and giving better access to all.

"We've been talking for weeks, as well as with a number of committee members, to really deal with those issues," Murray said.

The Senate is set to reconvene Monday afternoon.