Senate Republican leaders on Tuesday (September 26, 2017) officially pulled the plug on the latest plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, abandoning a planned vote on the measure and effectively admitting defeat in the last-gasp drive to fulfill a core promise of President Trump and Republican lawmakers.
The decision came less than 24 hours after pivotal Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine declared firm opposition to the repeal proposal, all but guaranteeing that Republican leaders would be short of the votes they needed, says The New York Times.
Much to the chagrin and disbelief of President Donald Trump, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Susan Collins (R-ME) said they would oppose the latest proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act, leaving Republican leaders with little hope of succeeding in their 11th-hour attempt to undo the health law.
According to The New York Times, Mr. McCain, who slayed the previous repeal effort with his dramatic thumbs-down “no” vote in July, released a statement saying that he could not “in good conscience” support the latest proposal, by Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who is Mr. McCain’s closest friend in the Senate.
“I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal,” Mr. McCain said. “I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried. Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will affect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it.”
Ms. Collins, one of three Republican senators who opposed the last repeal attempt in July, described the latest plan as “deeply flawed.” She expressed concerns about cuts to Medicaid as well as the rolling back of protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
“Health care is a deeply personal, complex issue that affects every single one of us and one-sixth of the American economy,” Ms. Collins said in a statement Monday (September 25, 2017), lamenting the rushed process and the content of legislation that has shifted as Republican leaders scrambled for votes. “Sweeping reforms to our healthcare system and to Medicaid can’t be done well in a compressed time frame, especially when the actual bill is a moving target.”
With one other Republican senator likely to vote “no,” Mr. McCain and Ms. Collins’ opposition to the bill could be fatal, as Senate Republicans can’t are now out of members they can afford to lose. Sen. Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, said last week that he would not vote for the bill because it did not dismantle enough of the Affordable Care Act.
Mr. McCain has for months bemoaned a Senate legislative process that avoided hearings or formal bill-drafting procedures and assumed that an Affordable Care Act repeal bill could clear Congress with no Democratic votes. Those concerns were compounded by the decision of Republican leaders to press forward with a vote this week before the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office could complete a full analysis of the Graham-Cassidy legislation.
The CBO is expected to estimate the cost of the bill early in the week, but could not complete an analysis of its impact on health insurance coverage or premiums by Sept. 30. That date is critical because Republicans, who hold 52 seats in the Senate, have until the end of this month to make use of special budget rules that would allow them to pass a repeal bill in the Senate with only a simple majority, rather than 60 votes.
As Yogi Berra once remarked mid-season about his floundering NY Mets’ chances of winning the National League Pennant race, way back in 1973: “It ain’t over till it’s over.” They then went on to overcome staggering odds against and win the Pennant.
Okay, here’s my attempt at a tie-in with Yogi’s oft-quoted wisdom.
Donald Trump on Friday (September 22, 2017) denounced Republicans who oppose the latest attempt by congressional lawmakers to repeal Obamacare. Yawn. Or is he a Yogi devotee.
Trump called out Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky in particular, saying in a tweet that lawmakers who vote against the bill sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy will forever be known as “the Republican who saved ObamaCare.”
That rebuke apparently wasn’t even close to being a deterrent to John McCain, whose contempt for Donald Trump was stronger than his affection for Congressional best friend/colleague Lindsey Graham.
That’s at least one reasonable conclusion after the Arizona senator came out against the Graham-Cassidy bill, the third serious attempt by Republicans this year to replace the Affordable Care Act with a new system, according to Ryan Lizza at The New Yorker.
And now with Susan Collins’ thumbs-down, it’s also likely the last attempt for this Congress. The budget vehicle that Republicans planned to use to pass the bill–in order to circumvent a Senate filibuster–will expire on September 30th. Their long-standing plan has been to use the next budget vehicle to pass their concept of tax reform.
Sen. Rand Paul was already firmly against Graham-Cassidy, and now with Susan Collins adding another “no” vote, that leaves the GOP, which has fifty-two senators, with just 49–one fewer if it relied on Mike Pence to break a tie. Last time, McCain delivered the blow to Trump with a dramatic thumbs-down on the Senate floor. This time he sent out a press release.
Again, shamefully, nobody really understood the full effects of the bill, because it was written by a handful of senators, had no public hearings, had no official CBO score, and was being rushed to passage because of an artificial deadline declared by the Senate parliamentarian.
Although Obamacare never attracted a Republican vote on its final passage, several Republicans, including Collins, were able to shape the legislation as it went through regular order.
Given the appalling process used to produce Graham-Cassidy, McCain’s endorsement of the bill would have been an act of profound hypocrisy, Lizza says.
“I would consider supporting legislation similar to that offered by my friends Senators Graham and Cassidy were it the product of extensive hearings, debate and amendment,” McClain said. “But that has not been the case. Instead, the specter of the September 30th budget reconciliation deadline has hung over this entire process.”
Almost as important as his repudiation of Graham-Cassidy was the second part of McCain’s statement, in which he endorsed a bipartisan effort by Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray to fix the main problems of the Affordable Care Act. As Graham-Cassidy gained momentum last week, Alexander retreated from those negotiations, noting, “We have not found the necessary consensus,” and they seemed to disintegrate.
McCain’s statements were immediately applauded by Chuck Schumer, who suggested in a statement that he had some influence on McCain’s decision.
“John McCain shows the same courage in Congress that he showed when he was a naval aviator,” Schumer said. “I have assured Senator McCain that as soon as repeal is off the table, we Democrats are intent on resuming the bipartisan process.”
McCain was judicious not to mark his undermining of Trump for the second time this year.
“I take no pleasure in announcing my opposition,” McCain said. “Far from it. The bill’s authors are my dear friends, and I think the world of them. I know they are acting consistently with their beliefs and sense of what is best for the country. So am I.”
Meanwhile, senior GOP leadership has not made a final decision to go through with another vote; we’re not going to see a full score of the bill from the Congressional Budget Office, so we’re not going to see a full estimate of the resulting coverage and cost implications. At best, it will be an abridged version of the score, full of estimates, just to determine whether it conforms with the Senate rules that are allowing Republicans to pass legislation with only 50 votes.
More than with any previous healthcare proposal, the level of complexity coupled with the level of uncertainty here with Graham-Cassidy make proceeding without full hearings and scoring particularly disgraceful.
Oh, and I forgot to mention this bill affects one-sixth of our national economy. (Alright, you knew that.)
The best way to convey your support for or against Graham-Cassidy is to call or visit your representative’s office and let him or her know exactly where you stand. A tweet or email, although better than nothing, doesn’t have anywhere near the same impact.Steve's Take: #Obamacarerepeal ain’t over till it’s over. Click To Tweet
Just remember Yogi’s perceptiveness. The clock’s still ticking, all the way to midnight, Saturday, September 30.