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McConnell Warming Up New Obamacare Repeal

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Robert Donachie Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Senate lawmakers Tuesday to seriously consider a Republican proposal to repeal major portions of Obamacare.

Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Dean Heller of Nevada and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin put forth a bill last week to repeal and replace major portions of Obamacare with a system of block grants.

McConnell told senators that it was “an intriguing idea and one that has a great deal of support.”

“As we continue to discuss that legislation, I’d like to thank Senator Graham and Senator Cassidy for all of their hard work. They know how important it is to move beyond the failures of Obamacare. They know that our opportunity to do so may well pass us by if we don’t act soon,” McConnell said Tuesday.

The Graham-Cassidy bill replaces Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, subsidies for private insurance companies (cost-sharing reductions) and tax-credits for middle-income Americans with block grants. Effectively, the legislation changes the funding mechanism for Obamacare in an attempt, according to the senators, to promote state innovation in the implementation of health care.

The majority leader’s comments Tuesday are interesting in that it appears McConnell is beginning to support the measure.

“It would repeal the pillars of Obamacare and replace that failed law’s failed approach with a new one: allowing states and governors to actually implement better health-care ideas by taking more decision-making power out of Washington,” McConnell said of the bill.

Cassidy told reporters Friday that the group of senators currently had “probably 48-49” yes votes, which would put them two votes shy of passing the bill.

Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine are all signaling that they might vote against the Graham-Cassidy bill, much like they did with all three Republican repeal proposals in late July.

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

Murkowski told reporters Monday that she is still undecided on Graham-Cassidy, and said Tuesday that she was still analyzing the legislation. The senator notably withheld her support for all three Republican proposals to reform the U.S. health care system in late July, and she has not yet shown she is willing to give a thumbs up to this bill.

McCain is focused on pushing any repeal bill through regular order, and not through the Senate’s budget reconciliation process, which is the current plan. McCain wants the proposal to have public hearings and allow Democrats the chance to filibuster, which they cannot do under reconciliation rules.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky 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.”

The senators have till Sept. 30 to get the bill through the Senate using the budget reconciliation process. After that date, Republicans would need to secure to 60 yes votes and would have to deal with potential filibusters from Democrats.

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