Top Senate Republicans are struggling to drum up the 50 votes needed to successfully pass their latest Obamacare repeal legislation.
Health care reform appeared all but dead after GOP leadership fell one vote short of passing a “skinny repeal” bill in late July. But legislation introduced last week by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Dean Heller of Nevada has rekindled hope that the party can make good on its top campaign promise.
While Graham-Cassidy — which aims to replace Medicaid expansion and insurance subsidies with block grants provided to the states — has gained some traction, the reconciliation bill still lacks the support needed to pass the upper chamber. GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine and John McCain of Arizona — all of which voted against skinny repeal — have expressed skepticism about the legislation, fearing the formula used to calculate funding will negatively impact their states. Conservative Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky also bashed the bill for leaving the majority of Obamacare taxes and regulations in place, arguing that the bill simply shifts reshuffles money from Democratic states to Republican states.
With strong backing from the White House, proponents are making the case that the bill falls in line with conservative ideals as it returns power to the states. Graham said they are looking to address the problems hesitant members may have with the legislation.
“We’re trying to work through concerns people have; it’s called the legislative process,” the South Carolina Republican told reporters Wednesday. “We’re inside the five-yard line and we’ll see what we can do to get it into the end zone.”
Pressure has been particularly amped up on Murkowski, a representative that Senate sources say leadership sees as the most likely sell of the big three. While states that opted to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act would largely receive less federal funding if the legislation is enacted, Alaska would receive 48 percent more than other states, National Review reported.
“We’re very interested in helping Alaska because Alaska has 750,000 people in a landmass bigger than Texas. It’s just a nightmare to deliver health care in Alaska and I’m very sensitive to that,” Graham said.
Cassidy said that his colleagues have been open to discussions, and he remains hopeful they can get something passed.
“It gives power back to the states, power back to the government, power back to patients, it’s fiscally sustainable, it protects those with pre-existing conditions; people love Republican principles,” he told reporters Wednesday.
The Senate Finance Committee is slated to hold a hearing on the bill Monday, and a vote-a-rama on the legislation could come as soon as next Wednesday, according to GOP staffers.
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