Update from Bloomberg: McCain still on the fence:
- MCCAIN SAYS NOT SUPPORTIVE AT THIS TIME OF GRAHAM-CASSIDY BILL
- MCCAIN: WILL DISCUSS GRAHAM-CASSIDY HEALTH BILL W/COLLEAGUES
McCain sounds very much like a no on TrumpCare, calls for markups, amendments, debate in scrum. "I'm not supportive of the bill yet."
— Jeff Stein (@JStein_Vox) September 18, 2017
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Will third time be the charm for the GOP on repealing Obamacare?
A last ditch attempt by Senate Republicans to push through repeal and replace Obamacare appears to be gaining steam ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline, but according to Bloomberg it faces significant challenges to get a deal done before a hard deadline in 12 days. A number of Republicans have reportedly jumped on board a proposal by Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana to replace the Affordable Care Act’s insurance subsidies with block grants to states. However, some of the same GOP senators who blocked various stages of the prior two repeal efforts are withholding their support.
The Hill confirms that supporters do not appear to have the 51 votes necessary to pass the bill yet, but pressure is growing on Republicans to back the measure, which could replace much of ObamaCare with block grants for states. "In a crucial boost for its chances on Monday, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) offered his support."
“Congress has 12 days to say ‘yes’ to Graham-Cassidy. It’s time for them to get the job done,” he said, referring to the bill's two main co-sponsors, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.)
Ducey’s support is important because Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has said that Ducey’s position would be an important factor in how he votes.
As a reminder, McCain helped kill the repeal effort in July, calling for committee hearings and a bipartisan process, but he has left the door open to voting for Graham and Cassidy's bill. Senate GOP leadership is also engaged. A source who has spoken to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) office described him as “taking it very seriously.”
Nonetheless, on Sunday, McCain repeated his view that a health plan needs to go through the committee process and gain bipartisan support - both of which are unlikely with the clock ticking and Democrats united against an Obamacare replacement. A one-party bill is “not the way to do it,” McCain said on “Face the Nation" on CBS. “The way to do this is have a bill, put it through the committee.”
Meanwhile, Democrats have warned that the bill is a serious threat. "This bill is worse than the last bill," Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York told reporters Monday. "It will slash Medicaid, get rid of pre-existing conditions. It’s very, very bad."
Later at a news conference, Schumer said voting on the measure without a full CBO analysis would be "legislative malpractice." In other words, there will be no last minute deal with Trump on this one.
As Bloomberg explains, the measure would end Obamacare’s requirements that individuals obtain health insurance and most employers provide it to their workers, and give states broad flexibility to address the needs of people with pre-existing medical conditions. The proposal would end the Affordable Care Act’s tax on medical devices while keeping others intact, including taxes on the wealthy, to fund the block grants.
Should the Graham-Cassidy bill pass, it would lower profits of hospitals and health insurers. Judging by the market's reaction to the bill, its odds of passage are certainly not zero:
Tenet Healthcare Corp. fell 5.6 percent to $15.80 at 3:07 p.m. in New York while Community Health Systems Inc. slipped 5 percent to $7.23. The insurer Molina Healthcare Inc. lost 1 percent and Centene Corp. fell 1.5 percent.
Without Democratic support, Republicans have only until Sept. 30 to push it through the Senate before rules expire that allow it to be passed with 50 senators plus Vice President Mike Pence’s tiebreaking vote. Republicans control the Senate 52-48, which is why McCain's support is critical:
Graham said last week that McConnell said he was “all in” to help the two bill sponsors round up the 50 votes to pass the bill. Graham said they could have as many as 48 votes if the vote were held now. But a number of Republican senators have yet to get on board, including the three who defeated McConnell’s plan -- Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John McCain of Arizona.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has spoken positively about the bill, as has Republican Representative Mark Meadows, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Still, it isn’t clear that the measure would have enough support to pass the chamber.
To be sure, staunch holdouts remain: Senator Rand Paul has come out against the measure, tweeting his opposition Friday and again on Monday.
“No conservative should vote for a rebranded trillion dollar spending program just because it adds some block grants,” Paul wrote Monday on Twitter. He added moments later, “Graham/Cassidy keeps Obamacare and tells the states to run it. No thanks.”
Additionally, the conservative group Heritage Action, which opposed the GOP bill that failed in July, said last week the Graham-Cassidy proposal doesn’t appear to deliver on Republicans’ promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, though the group hasn’t taken a final position.
Jason Pye, vice president of legislative affairs at the conservative group FreedomWorks, said the bill is far from ideal, but it is better than doing nothing. “It’s better than the status quo so I think it’s the last shot at doing something with 50 votes,” he said. Fifty votes would allow Vice President Pence to cast a tie-breaking vote on the measure.
If the measure can be filibustered, it has no chances of passing the Senate. As a result, Republicans are feeling pressure to move quickly to enact change they have long promised but have been unable to deliver, even with their party’s control of Congress and the White House.
Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office said Monday it will offer a partial assessment of the measure early next week, but that it won’t have estimates of its effects on the deficit, health insurance coverage or premiums for at least several weeks. That could make it hard to win over several Republicans who opposed previous versions of repeal legislation.