Once more into the breach: GOP in last-gasp effort to repeal Obamacare

It's called Graham-Cassidy after Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, who have come up with a last-ditch effort to repeal Obamacare before a September 30 deadline.  That's the last day of the current fiscal year and the last day that Senate Republicans can pass a repeal bill and avoid a filibuster.  Only 50 GOP votes would be needed for passage under reconciliation rules.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is seriously considering bringing the bill up for a vote – but only if he can be assured of the 50 votes necessary for passage.


Right now, support for the bill – which would replace Obamacare's tax subsidies with block grants, end the law's individual insurance mandate and scale back its Medicaid expansion – among Republican senators is short of 50 votes. But McConnell and his lieutenants will gauge support this week in private party meetings with help from President Donald Trump, administration and Capitol Hill sources said.

"McConnell and his team are engaged and serious about the vote and working with the conference to build support for Graham-Cassidy," a source familiar with the bill's prospects said Sunday. The "White House is also operating with all hands on deck."

White House officials began making calls last week to Republican Senate officesand plan to whip Senate votes this week, an administration official said. Supporters of the Graham-Cassidy bill have tried to keep their efforts to round up votes quiet so far, this official said, but the push is ramping up.

Graham has publicly begged for Trump to help build support for the bill, and it appears to be paying off. The president asked about the Graham-Cassidy proposal in conversations this weekend in Bedminster, New Jersey, and is likely to call senators this week while he is in New York at the United Nations, the administration official said, though much of the work will be done on the senior staff level.

The new activity marks a significant shift for GOP leaders after several senior Republican senators panned the bill's prospects earlier this month. But Cassidy estimates he is now just a handful of votes short of passing the bill, and other senators are beginning to press for another vote before they turn their attention to tax reform this fall.

Some Republicans believe that if the bill were put on the floor Monday, it would have the support of 49 senators.

"All we need is one more," Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said of the repeal effort, which failed in July after GOP Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted no on a slimmed-down repeal bill.

Senator Rand Paul has called Graham-Cassidy "Obamacare lite."  He is absolutely correct.  In truth, the bill would not "repeal" Obamacare.  It would move the decimal point around a bit.

Graham-Cassidy would leave most Obamacare taxes untouched, still include the onerous coverage mandates that make premiums so expensive, do nothing to allow companies to sell policies across state lines – in short, the bill doesn't address most of the issues that make Obamacare policies so expensive.

But it is likely that both the GOP leadership and President Trump will refer to the bill as "Obamacare repeal," pronounce that campaign pledge fulfilled if it passes, and then move on to tax reform.

Unless Trump does some serious arm-twisting to conservatives in the Senate, Graham-Cassidy is likely never to see the light of day.  Opposition from Republican "moderates" as well as more conservative members is likely to doom the bill to extinction.

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