Though President Trump and Republicans in Congress campaigned on Obamacare repeal, nothing has been accomplished as of yet. But time is ticking down toward a September 30th deadline. After that date, the Senate will be unable to pass a repeal through majority vote.
After the GOP’s skinny repeal effort, which was sunk by a determining vote from Senator John McCain, a few things have been in the works.
On one hand, there is a bipartisan effort underway in the Senate in attempt to stabilize Obamacare. A sort of “fix” to the monstrosity and mess that is the so-called Affordable Care Act.
This is not popular, though, as Politico reports:
House Speaker Paul Ryan and the White House have informed Senate Republican leaders that they oppose a bipartisan plan to stabilize Obamacare being written in the Senate, according to Trump administration and congressional sources, in a clear bid to boost the Senate’s prospects of repealing the health law.
Republicans say that while the bipartisan talks between Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) initially seemed promising, many in the GOP fear providing money for Obamacare but offering little for conservatives — especially after Republican lawmakers have been throttled by President Donald Trump and the GOP base for failing to repeal the health law.
The “speaker is drawing a red line” and said the House “would not be able to pass a bailout of insurers,” said one congressional source familiar with the dynamics. “The White House also told GOP leaders that [Obamacare subsidies] without repeal would not work.”
A senior White House official said there was never much interest in the Murray-Alexander talks and chalked it up to “the media talking about it,” though McConnell openly acknowledged the possibility that the two deal-making senators could strike a bargain. Trump listened to arguments for it and seemed intrigued, but it wasn’t seriously considered as a possibility, this person said.
The bipartisan proposal would continue subsidy payments and would not be seen as repealing Obamacare, this person said. Other White House officials said Graham-Cassidy isn’t their ideal bill, but it’s a “final chance to actually get something done,” according to a second administration official.
On the other hand, a last-minute repeal attempt is being crafted by others, though this one may lack the votes needed for passage.
Senate Republicans’ last-gasp Obamacare repeal effort is gaining steam, with key senators who tanked the last push in July signaling new openness to the latest attempt and GOP leaders growing increasingly bullish.
While the proposal written by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) remains short of 50 votes, it also has just one hard “no” vote, from Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, and another expected “no” in Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. Three “no” votes would kill the bill, but in an encouraging sign for repeal proponents, no one is stepping forward yet to deliver that final nail.
Instead, wavering senators remain on the sidelines. Conservative Sen. Mike Lee of Utah is warming to the legislation, which would turn federal health care funding into block grants for states and eliminate Obamacare’s coverage mandate, while Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is undecided.
A Republican senator who has spoken to GOP leaders said Murkowski is likely the bellwether. This senator said that GOP leaders believe other undecided senators will support the bill if it is put on the floor and that McConnell has begun whipping the bill because he “realizes that there’s life out there.”
“We are one vote away from doing this thing,” the senator insisted.
Speaking of one vote, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is vocally against the Graham-Cassidy option and has expressed such on social media and elsewhere.
Paul appears committed to bringing the bill down, however, frustrating his colleagues. He held a press event panning the bill on Monday and has bashed Cassidy and Graham’s work frequently on Twitter. President Donald Trump spoke with Paul on Monday but the Kentucky senator was unmoved.
“I’m for repealing Obamacare. I know that sounds like a quaint notion,” Paul said.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) September 19, 2017
Keeping 90% of Obamacare is not ok and it's not what we ran on. Conservatives should say no.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) September 18, 2017
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) September 19, 2017
While Senator Paul is not a fan of this version of a repeal, he may not be the deciding factor in the vote. A handful of colleagues are still undecided, and may also keep the bill from gaining the necessary support. His opposition is being called into question, though, as he supported the earlier failure known as skinny repeal.
Odd that Rand Paul backed skinny repeal, which kept all of Obamacare's $, but opposes bill that block grants $ https://t.co/XyyHSd4xGk
— John McCormack (@McCormackJohn) September 19, 2017
Rand Paul in best possible position on Graham-Cassidy: can oppose on 'principle' w/o acknowledging that repeal also terrible politics in KY.
— Jeff B. (@EsotericCD) September 19, 2017
But Paul’s opposition may not kill the deal, as he said on Monday night.
Paul’s opposition will make Graham-Cassidy’s passage tougher, but the bill got a boost on Monday when Arizona governor Doug Ducey endorsed it. Arizona senator John McCain, who along with Alaska’s Murkowski and Maine’s Collins killed the Obamacare “skinny repeal” bill in July, has said Ducey’s support for an Obamacare repeal bill would be a big factor getting him to vote for it.
While time is running out before the Senate’s Sept, 30 deadline to pass a reconciliation bill, Paul said he’s increasingly worried that the Graham-Cassidy bill will pass. “Two weeks ago I was at zero,” Paul said of Graham-Cassidy’s odds of passing, “but now I’m worried. There’s a big groundswell of people pushing for this.”
It’s a near certainty that the bipartisan fix effort won’t gain much traction at all, considering both Speaker Ryan and the White House are rejecting it. As far the repeal effort, its future is yet to be determined.
Only three “no” votes will effectively kill the bill. Whether three GOP senators vote in opposition and who those will be is the question.