How the GOP 'skinny repeal' bill tanked

The plan came crashing down in dramatic fashion very early Friday morning.

Spokespeople for McConnell did not respond to inquiries about if and when the leader knew McCain was going to vote no, but by the way the entire Senate stood silently to watch him as he voted, it appeared the senior Arizona senator had played his decision on how to vote close to the chest.

While the precise fate of the bill was unknown until the very final moments, Senate Republicans had been making it clear that the skinny repeal was nobody’s first choice. The bill would have scrapped the individual and employer health insurance mandate -- the crux of Obamacare -- but would have kept many regulations.

The problem for many senators with the skinny repeal was the scope, inherent in its nickname: after senators had tried, and failed, to pass more comprehensive repeal-and-replace plans, skinny repeal was considered the lowest common denominator around which at least 51 senators could coalesce to pass a health care bill in any form. While most senators supported all or most of the individual provisions in the skinny repeal, even those who voted for it balked at the prospect of passing something out of their chamber that they would not to see become law.

GOP moderates Collins and Murkowski, meanwhile, also had specific concerns with some of the bill's provisions, including those that would have ended federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Graham and other senators said they wanted assurances that, if the Senate passed the bill, the House would work with the upper chamber to reconcile the differences between their two respective bills in a process known as a conference committee.

“Not sufficient,” he told reporters as he headed to the floor Thursday night.

Earlier Friday morning, just before he cast the vote that audibly took the breath away from some of his colleagues, he reportedly gave journalists a hint of what was to come as they asked how he would break: “Watch the show.”