McCain And Murkowski Now Hold The Fate Of Obamacare

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Robert Donachie Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter
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WASHINGTON, D.C.–Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are holding the future of the American health care system in their hands.

A few of their Republican colleagues–Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Dean Heller of Nevada and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin–are pushing a bill that would repeal major portions of Obamacare and fundamentally change the system’s funding mechanism in an attempt, according to the senators, to promote state innovation in the implementation of health care.

“I’ve never felt better about where we are at,” Graham told reporters Tuesday at the Capitol. “At the end of the day, I think we’re going to get 50 Republican votes — and I’m going to make a prediction — there’s gonna be a lot of Democrats struggling with a ‘no’ vote.”

Despite the senator’s optimistic message, Republican leadership still could face a few holdouts from members of their own party. GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky are signaling they will vote no on Graham-Cassidy.

Paul told The Daily Caller News Foundation that he does not support either the Graham-Cassidy bill or the bipartisan proposal expected to make its way out of the Senate HELP Committee.

Paul told reporters Tuesday that Graham-Cassidy is “immortalizing Obamacare.” He said what his Republican colleagues are doing is “keeping it forever,” and he considers their effort “to be petty partisanship.”

Collins cited “a lot of concerns” to reporters Tuesday at the Capitol with regards to her feelings about Graham-Cassidy.

If three Republican senators vote against the measure, the bill is dead. Effectively, the Graham-Cassidy bill could come down to how McCain and Murkowski decide to vote.

“I’m still looking for data that walks me through how Alaska actually does,” Murkowski told reporters. “If it can be shown that Alaska is not going to be disadvantaged we gain additionally flexibility then I can go back to Alaskans and I can say ‘ok let’s walk through this together’…I don’t have that right now.”

Murkowski notably withheld her support for all three Republican proposals to reform the U.S. health care system in late July, and her comments Tuesday show that she is not yet willing to give a thumbs up to this bill.

McCain said Monday he wants Graham-Cassidy to go through regular order, which requires Republican leadership to whip 60 yes votes for the measure to pass, and allows Democrats the opportunity to filibuster.

Graham assured reporters that McCain would get at least one public hearing on the bill next week.

McCain told reporters Tuesday that for him to support Graham-Cassidy that he “would need assurance that this bill would help the state of Arizona and would be good for the country.” He would not detail the discussions of repeal and replace that happened during Senate Republicans weekly Tuesday lunch meeting.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not respond directly as to whether or not he would put the bill up for a vote before the Senate’s budget reconciliation process expires.

“If we were going to go forward, we would have to act by Sept. 30,” McConnell said Tuesday. “We are in the process of discussing all of this. Everyone knows that the opportunity expires at the end of the month.”

Graham said Tuesday that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan told him directly that, “If you pass it, we pass it.”

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