U.S. President Donald Trump criticized Senator John McCain at a political rally in Alabama Friday for opposing the Republican party’s latest attempt to repeal the nation’s health care law.
Speaking at a campaign event for Republican Senator Luther Strange, Trump said McCain’s opposition was “sad” and “a horrible, horrible thing.”
“It’s a little tougher without McCain’s vote,” Trump said, but added, “We are going to do it eventually.”
Trump continued to lash out at the senator from Arizona in a series of tweets Saturday morning, one of which said:
“John McCain never had any intention of voting for this Bill, which his Governor loves. He campaigned on Repeal & Replace. Let Arizona down!”
McCain announced his opposition Friday to Republicans’ last-ditch attempt to replace the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.
The 81-year-old senator, who is fighting brain cancer, said he could not “in good conscience” vote for the measure, which would repeal major parts of the law and replace them with block grants to the states to tailor their own health care programs.
McCain’s opposition deals a likely death blows to the bill and to years of Republican efforts to repeal and replace the law.
Many large medical organizations and a bipartisan group of governors are also opposed to the measure, maintaining that millions of people would lose insurance altogether or have their coverage reduced.
Trump appeared at Strange’s campaign rally after endorsing him last month. Strange is competing against opponent Roy Moore in a special runoff election to fill the Senate seat vacated when Jeff Sessions became attorney general.
Strange was appointed to the seat when Sessions left, but he must win the special election September 26 to keep it for a full term.
The president said Friday his support of Strange has bolstered his candidacy, but predicted on Twitter the race will be close.
Despite the president’s support, Moore, a former Alabama chief justice who was twice removed from the bench for disobeying judicial orders, has maintained a lead in the polls. He is campaigning on an anti-Washington platform and is known for unsuccessfully pushing for the public display of the Ten Commandments and opposing gay marriage.
During a debate Thursday night, Strange emphasized “the president supports me,” while Moore argued that Strange supporter Senate Majority Mitch McConnell and other members of the “elite Washington establishment” were trying to influence the race.
A super political action committee linked to McConnell has injected millions of dollars into the race amid Republican concern Moore would be a disruptive force in the Senate, or possibly lose to Democrat Doug Jones.
Moore also has high-profile support, led by former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and his conservative website Brietbart News. Additionally, Moore has the backing of former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
While Trump claims his support of Strange has narrowed Moore’s lead in the polls, the latest Real Clear Politics polling average completed on September 17 shows Moore with a nearly 9-point lead.
Moore led Strange in the first round of Republican voting, although the margin was not wide enough to avoid a runoff election, which will be held next Tuesday.
Some political observers say the runoff will be an early test of Trump’s influence over his political base. Republican leaders are concerned about the impact a loss by Strange could have on Trump’s political strength ahead of the 2018 mid-term elections, as well as Republicans’ ability to advance Trump’s agenda in Congress.