Co-sponsors of the latest attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare have taken particular care in courting Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who effectively killed the party’s July attempt with his “no” vote.
Earlier this month, McCain suggested that he would support the bill if he sees a finished product with support from state governors. “I think it’s a good proposal and I think we ought to support it,” he said less than two weeks ago.
McCain announced his opposition to the bill on Friday, arguing that the plan is being rushed through without proper analysis and debate.
“I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal,” said McCain. “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.”
McCain has a point, but Republicans are running out of time. They have until September 30th before their ability to use the reconciliation process ends. After that, they will no longer be able to pass legislation with a simple majority vote and will be at the mercy of a Democratic filibuster.
For months, McCain has bemoaned the legislative process that avoids hearings and formal drafting procedures and essentially excludes Democrats. Such an important piece of legislation “requires a bipartisan approach,” argues McCain. “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, but that has not been the case. Instead, the specter of September 30th budget reconciliation deadline has hung over this entire process.”
McCain argues that Democrats made the same mistake when they rushed through the Affordable Care Act without support from a single Republican.
McCain’s decision doesn’t necessarily mean the bill is dead, but it is unlikely that the GOP will be able to scrape together enough votes to pass it. Kentucky Republican Rand Paul has announced his opposition to the bill, and Maine Senator Susan Collins says she is “leaning against” it.
With the Dems united in opposition, Republicans can afford to lose only two party members.
President Trump called McCain’s decision “totally unexpected” and “terrible.”
“Rand Paul, or whoever votes against Hcare Bill, will forever (future political campaigns) be known as ‘the Republican who saved Obamacare,’” tweeted Trump on Friday.
As I wrote in a previous article, the Graham-Cassidy proposal features block grants that states can spend as they please. The bill repeals the ACA’s individual mandate, cost-sharing subsidies, and Medicaid expansion.
The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on the bill early next week, and a report from the Congressional Budget Office should be coming soon.
In the meantime, McCain hopes that senators will come up with short-term solutions to some of the problems currently plaguing insurance markets. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) are currently working on a bill that aims to stabilize markets by providing money for subsidies paid to insurers so they can reduce out-of-pocket costs for consumers.
Democrats have praised McCain’s decision not to support Graham-Cassidy, and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has promised to resume bipartisan negotiations once the repeal effort is off the table. But with some Democrats gunning for a single-payer healthcare system, I find compromise between the two parties unlikely.
Author’s Note: I respect and understand McCain’s hesitancy to vote for a “rushed” healthcare bill – but is gambling on a compromise that may never come to pass better than passing imperfect legislation that at least fixes some of Obamacare’s problems?
I think not.
Republicans will not always hold a congressional majority, and McCain’s decision not to support Graham-Cassidy will leave Republicans with little hope of fulfilling their seven-year promise to dismantle Obamacare.
Editor’s note: This plan still has a shot, negotiations continue.