Urgent: Will Mitch McConnell Fight For a Vote on an Eleventh-Hour Obamacare Replacement Bill?

Posted: Sep 15, 2017 10:30 AM

We first told you about the Graham-Cassidy Obamacare replacement bill last week, and since then, it's gained additional co-sponsors: Nevada moderate Dean Heller and Wisconsin conservative Ron Johnson.  Remember, the reason that this final push is so time-sensitive is that Senate Republicans' reconciliation authority -- allowing them to uproot and supplant much of Obamacare with a simple majority -- expires at the end of this month.  If that opportunity sunsets, it'll represent a frustrating abdication, as the GOP's rare second bite at reconciliation within a single calendar year is already earmarked for tax reform.  With most of DC's attention focused on that latter effort and other issues following this summer's 'repeal and replace' failure, some members of the Senate GOP are still working to keep the promise their entire party has made to voters over the past seven years.  Here's Johnson's portion of a Wednesday press conference featuring the aforementioned quartet promoting their proposal earlier in the week, along with former Senator Rick Santorum:

Lindsay Graham emphasized the urgency of the calendar, and the devastating potential consequences of Republican inaction on health policy:

This Washington Post summary of the plan is very useful. In short, it would repeal Obamacare's individual and employer mandates, then take the total sum of each state's subsidy and Medicaid dollars and send that amount back to each individual state -- allowing legislatures and governors to spend the money however they'd choose on their citizens' healthcare. Liberal states that love Obamacare could fashion a plan that looks virtually identical to the "Affordable" Care Act, replete with an individual mandate. Other states could and would allocate the funds quite differently.  The Weekly Standard has effectively endorsed the bill as the last, best chance to rid the nation of Obamacare, and I'm inclined to agree.  But Philip Klein warns that the bill wouldn't touch the cost-driving coverage mandates (especially guaranteed issue) that have driven up Obamacare's costs:

He also writes, "the bill is well to the left of the failed Senate bill because it would keep much of Obamacare intact, which means it will be a tough sell to conservatives."  Given the calendar pressures at play, will Mitch McConnell work to guarantee a vote once a CBO score comes in?  Yes, but only if the legislation's sponsors can rustle up 50 votes on their own.  This sounds like leadership will not be spending much time or energy whipping or vote-counting on behalf of this eleventh-hour endeavor:

Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) met on Tuesday afternoon with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to discuss their last-ditch ObamaCare repeal bill.  Leaving the meeting in McConnell's Capitol office, Cassidy said the leader's message was that Graham and Cassidy need to find 50 votes for the bill on their own.  "He just says we need 50 votes," Cassidy said of McConnell..."The Leader has said publicly and repeatedly that to move forward on anything we’ll need at least 50 votes," said McConnell spokesman Don Stewart, calling that a "consistent message." 

That's likely a tall order, although John McCain's openness to the idea is a ray of hope. The clock is bleeding away quickly, though, so if there's a rabbit to be pulled out of a hat here, Senators ought to get to it as soon as humanly possible. If Graham-Cassidy fails, the next step will be bipartisan tinkering, with Obamacare almost entirely intact. Meanwhile, many Democrats have already moved on to their new healthcare project: Handing absolute control to the federal government. Bernie Sanders' scheme would cost an estimated $32 trillion new dollars over the first ten years of his socialized program -- that's new spending, on top of Uncle Sam's current massive  debt-hiking expenditures. "A joke," Klein calls it. He's right on the merits, but a lot of people aren't laughing. I'll leave you with this flashback: