Senate leaders on both the Republican and Democratic sides booked back-to-back press conferences Tuesday to make their latest pitch for, and against, the GOP’s new health care bill.
‘So here’s the choice for America, socialism or federalism, when it comes to your health care,’ said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., whose bill that he co-wrote with Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., is gaining steam.
The Graham-Cassidy proposal takes funding that now goes toward Obamacare and repackages it into block grants that go back to the states.
‘We’ve come upon an idea that is uniquely Republican, but over time has proved to work in other areas like welfare reform,’ Graham told a crowd of reporters on Capitol Hill. ‘So I would hate to be the Democrat that voted against more money for my state and more power and keep the status quo.’
The Senate’s top Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., didn’t see the latest version of ‘Trumpcare’ that way.
‘It’s a bill to end Medicaid as we know it and have the governors do the dirty work,’ Schumer said, as he held up a letter written by 10 governors – five Democrats and five Republicans – who had come out against the bill.
Once again the chances of a GOP-led health care reform bill are hanging by a thread as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has yet to announce how he plans to vote.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., could once again derail Republicans’ plans to repeal and replace Obamacare, though the governor of his state has green-lit McCain’s support for the bill
Sens. Bill Cassidy (left) and Lindsey Graham (second from right) are behind the new bill, which would turn Obamacare funding into block grants used for the states
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has already urged his fellow conservatives to vote against the bill, as he says it’s not a true Obamacare repeal
Moderates like Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D. (center), and Susan Collins, R-Maine (right), talking to ABC News’ Ali Rogin, bemoan that a different, bipartisan effort didn’t take off
However, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey cleared the way Monday for a McCain ‘yea’ as he announced his support for the plan calling it the ‘best path forward,’ urging Congress to get the job done.
Several hours earlier, McCain had told NBC News, ‘I’m comfortable with the bill as long as the governor of Arizona has signed off on it,’ adding that Ducey had some concerns.
McCain who has preached bipartisanship, especially since he returned to the Senate post-cancer diagnosis, also warned that he didn’t want to see Republican lawmakers push through a piece of legislation along party lines.
‘Instead of trying to jam something through like a “skinny repeal,”‘ McCain said, name-dropping the last GOP effort, which his no vote killed. ‘Let’s do it through the normal process,’ he implored.
So next week the Republicans will hold a committee hearing entitled, ‘Block Grants: How States Can Reduce Health Care Costs,’ hosted by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, chaired by Graham-Cassidy co-sponsor, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.
The committee usually doesn’t get involved in health care matters.
Graham didn’t hide the fact that it was scheduled to appease McCain.
‘My friends on the other side love process when it advantages them,’ he told reporters. ‘So there will be a public hearing, what John has been asking for.’
Schumer called the Republicans out for it too.
‘One hearing, on one day, without a CBO score with two witnesses against the bill,’ he said. ‘That’s a hearing, that a full airing of the bill? Come on!’
‘They are ashamed of this bill, they are afraid to find out what it actually does and so we get another bill in the dark of night,’ Schumer charged.
The reason why Republicans are trying to quickly vote on this bill – which molds Obamacare funding into block grants, sending them back to the states – is that they only have a limited amount of time to do it through reconciliation, which only takes 51 votes for passage.
After that, they’d need a super-majority of 60 to pass such a bill, meaning it would have to receive bipartisan support.
The White House is fully on board the effort with Vice President Mike Pence even calling West Virginia Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin, to see if he would consider saying yes to the bill.
Pence spoke at the Senate policy lunch Tuesday.
‘My message today is I want to make sure that members of the Senate know the president and our entire administration supports Graham-Cassidy. We think the American people need this,’ Pence said, previewing his speech to the press pool.
The GOP only has a two seat advantage in the Senate, 52-48, though they also have a spare vote because of Pence.
No Democrats will likely vote for Graham and Cassidy’s legislation and they’ve already lost one Republican, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
‘Keeping 90% of Obamacare is not ok and it’s not what we ran on. Conservatives should say no,’ the Kentucky Republican tweeted on Monday.
Paul had voted in favor of the ‘skinny repeal’ effort, with Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, joining McCain to vote against it.
So far Murkowski has been vague about her intentions, though Alaska Gov.
Collins also didn’t express that she was an outright ‘no’ this time around, but she wasn’t happy with the plan either.
‘I have a lot of concerns about the bill,’ she told ABC News’ Ali Rogin on Tuesday, sitting alongside Sen. Heidi Heitkamp for an interview feature at the D.C. diner, Ted’s Bulletin.
Collins suggested the new legislation would suck $1 billion away from the state of Maine for medical expenses.
She also voiced concern that the Congressional Budget Office, Congress’ nonpartisan scorekeeper, wouldn’t be able to provide coverage, premium and deficit estimates right away.
The CBO plans to offer a preliminary assessment of the Graham-Cassidy plan early next week.
In the past, Democrats have hammered Republicans over the number of Americans who would become uninsured under the GOP plans versus with the country sticking with Obamacare, which mandates people buy health insurance or face a penalty under the law.
Collins, along with Heitkamp – a moderate Democrat up for re-election next year – pointed to a better course of action, the plan that was being developed by the top two members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., to stabilize the insurance markets.
‘There is an alternative, however,’ Collins said. ‘The HELP committee has been working very hard, under bipartisan leadership of Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray and I don’t want people to lose sight of that.’
Heitkamp put some blame on her side of the aisle, too, alluding to Sen. Bernie Sanders’, I-Vt., move last week to introduce a Medicare for all bill, which attracted the support of a number of both liberal and moderate Democrats.
‘We were on the right path, it was very bipartisan and what you saw since then is, as people saw that moving I think that frightened people who said, “Oh, well, we can’t let that happen, we’ve got to now introduce something that is more radical,”‘ she said of both the Sanders plan and the one pitched by Graham and Cassidy.
‘And it happened on both sides,’ Heitkamp said.
Graham, however, has touted his bill as a crowd-please, telling pool reporter Jonathan Swan Tuesday, ‘I have got Alan Greenspan, Jeb Bush and Steve Bannon’ behind the bill.
‘If anyone can do better, I’d like to meet them,’ the South Carolina Republican said.
He also told Swan, with ‘a knowing smile,’ that he’s feeling good about getting McCain’s support.