Obamacare Lives: Mounting GOP Opposition Likely Sinks Graham-Cassidy

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) announced Sunday he doesn’t support the latest attempt to partially repeal and replace Obamacare — a crucial loss for advocates of the measure, which essentially guarantees that no GOP health care plan will pass before the looming September 30 deadline.

While addressing a crowd at the Texas Tribune Festival on Sunday, Cruz announced that Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) “don’t have my vote” to support the so-called Cassidy-Graham bill, which would replace insurance subsidies and Medicare expansion with a block-grant program. Cruz joined the ranks of GOP Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), and John McCain (Ariz.) in opposing the bill. The GOP only holds 52 Senate seats, and with at least four or five senators refusing to support the Cassidy-Graham legislation, the 50-vote threshold appears to be unattainable.

"Right now they don't have my vote, and I don't think they have [Sen.] Mike Lee's (R-Utah), either," Cruz said.

Though he admitted "I want to be a yes," the Texas senator said he wouldn't vote for the Cassidy-Graham bill unless the senators included the changes both Cruz and Lee suggested.

"We said if you take these edits, we're a yes. They took our edits and then a day later they removed our edits," Cruz said.

The tenuous fate of the Cassidy-Graham bill was a front-and-center topic on Sunday morning shows. Despite the pushback from Republican colleagues, Graham projected optimism and insisted the bill still could pass after its backers twisted a few more arms.

"The only way you'll know how people vote is when you actually vote. We thought we had the votes last time and we didn't," Graham said Sunday on the ABC News program "This Week."

When ABC reporter Martha Raddatz asked Graham if "there is a snowball's chance your bill will pass," Graham replied, "Yes, there is," insisting that states with holdout senators could succeed in pressuring them to back the bill.

"I think Maine, Susan Collins, is a great senator. They get a 42 percent increase. The governor of Arizona has come out for this bill," Graham said. "Rand Paul objects to the taxes, but when you look at the bill, Rand, we save a lot of money over time from Medicaid. We have put a cap on Obamacare growth to make it more sustainable, more affordable, more flexible."

"I'm very excited about it. We finally found an alternative to Obamacare that makes sense — take the money and power out of Washington, the same amount of money we would have spent on Obamacare, and let states design the systems, because if you keep replicating Obamacare, even at the state level, you're going to get the same outcome," Graham added. "Flexibility and innovation is what we're seeking ... So, yes, we're moving forward. And we'll see what happens next week."

During the course of his interview on NBC News' "Meet the Press," Paul predicted the Cassidy-Graham bill's imminent demise, noting he'd only support it if its central provision stipulating block grants was removed.

"What it sets up is a perpetual food fight over the formula," Paul said. "What happens when Democrats win? They're going to claw back that money from Republican states to give to Democrat states."

Paul said he would support health care reform "if they narrow the focus to what we all agree on — expanding health savings accounts, giving governors more freedom through waivers, slowing down the rate of growth of out-of-control entitlement spending."

"We can't just keep piling on new money," Paul added. "There has to be a few conservatives left in Washington."

For her own part, Collins said on CNN's "State of the Union" that "it's very difficult for me to envision a scenario where I would end up voting for this bill" because she harbors "a number of serious reservations" about it and its "cost and coverage."

If the GOP fails in its latest effort to deliver health care reform, Graham said he would tell the American people that "I did everything I could to get money and power out of Washington to give you better health care closer to where you live and I'm not going to stop fighting."

"I think we're going to get the votes next week," Graham said. "Here's what I'm telling Republicans and everybody in the middle."

(photo credit, homepage and article images: Gage Skidmore)

Last Modified: November 22, 2017, 10:24 am

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