(CNN) -- Maine Sen. Susan Collins' announcement that she will not vote for her party's last-ditch attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare effectively dooms Republican hopes of abolishing a law they spent eight years campaigning against.
What is remarkable about the near-certain failure of the legislation put forward by Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, is not that it happened. It's how similar this failure was to the failure of Republicans' first attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act back in July. And how that intractability of the "no" votes proves one basic fact: There is no repeal and replace bill that can get 50 GOP votes in this Senate. Period.
In the wake of the July defeat, there was little expectation that a re-animation of the repeal and replace effort was even possible. The reason was simple: The GOP Senate conference was caught betwixt and between -- stretched to breaking by hardliners on the right who demanded full repeal and nothing but full repeal and centrists concerned about the elimination of popular provisions like Medicaid expansion and the guaranteed coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
Those differences -- coupled with the fact that Republicans only controlled 52 seats -- made the policy, and the math, look impossible.
Then, suddenly, out of nowhere came Graham-Cassidy -- a last chance for Republicans desperate to make good on their oft-repeated campaign trail promise to their base. The legislation -- with its block granting of health care dollars to the states -- was touted as the conservative solution to the morass created by Obamacare's federal government control. Finally, a Republican solution Republicans could vote for!
Except that, on closer examination, Graham-Cassidy wasn't the amazing legislative solution that Republicans so badly wanted it to be. It had the same problems the last bill -- nicknamed "skinny repeal" -- had. It was the same package, just wrapped in different paper.
The first "no" came from Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who said he had promised his voters full repeal of Obamacare and this wasn't that. (Paul, of course, had found a way to vote for skinny repeal back in July.)
The second "no" came from Arizona Sen. John McCain, whose famous/infamous thumbs-down "no" vote in late July had doomed skinny repeal by the narrowest of margins. McCain's issue then was the same as his issue now: The legislation did not move through the Senate in "regular order" -- meaning that it didn't go through a series of committee hearings, a mark-up where the legislation was edited and improved and then floor votes in which amendments to the bill -- offered by Republicans and Democrats -- could be considered.
Then, on Monday night, came Collins' "no." Her issues, then as now, were the potential cuts to Medicaid and the lack of guarantees that people with pre-existing conditions would be covered -- and covered at an affordable rate.
"Sweeping reforms to our health care system and to Medicaid can't be done well in a compressed time frame, especially when the actual bill is a moving target," Collins said when announcing her decision.