WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is willing to work with Democrats to come to a short-term solution to fix Obamacare, but promises that his plan to repeal major portions of the law will come up for a vote after the party pushes tax reform.
Graham, along with Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Dean Heller of Nevada and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, have tried for two weeks to jam the party’s 11th hour proposal to upend Obamacare through the Senate before budget reconciliation rules expire Sept. 30. After the fourth Republican senator came out against the bill Monday evening, leadership thought it was best to table the legislation for the time being.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, with Graham and Cassidy standing behind him, announced Tuesday that Graham-Cassidy will not be brought to the Senate floor for a vote before the budget reconciliation deadline.
“We haven’t given up on changing the American health care system,” McConnell told reporters. “We aren’t going to be able to do it this week.”
The majority leader said the next move for the party is to shoot for tax reform before coming back to health care, a point that Graham corroborated.
“What I would expect is that we take a clear shot at taxes. We’ll use the time to come up with a better process for health care,” Graham told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We will have a debate worthy of a great country and when taxes are over early next year, which is what I envision, we’ll go back to repealing and replacing Obamacare.”
Graham told TheDCNF that he is not ruling out a short-term, bipartisan solution to help stabilize the Obamacare marketplaces, but he is not in favor of some of the recent proposals coming out of the Senate Health Committee, like giving more federal subsidies to insurance providers.
“The question for us as Republicans is ‘Can we find short-term fixes to go for Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson?’ The president is not going to just throw good money after bad. I think to keep this thing moving in the right direction there needs to be some bipartisanship to keep the thing (Obamacare) stable until we can get to a replacement,” Graham told TheDCNF.
“It’s always time to sit down (with Democrats). I’m not going to take more money and give it to insurance companies. If giving more money to insurance companies would fix this, we would have great health care,” Graham said. “We’ll see what bipartisanship means. If it’s just around the edges, if you don’t fundamentally change Obamacare then how do you get a fundamentally different result?”
The South Carolina senator told TheDCNF that there are two positives that have come from the Graham-Cassidy bill, even if it is on the backburner. The first is that the party has gotten Democrats to admit there are problems with Obamacare. The other is that Republicans finally have some consensus on how to move forward with reforming health care. Graham said his colleagues have latched onto his block grant proposal.
“The one thing I can tell you we’ve done is we’ve pushed the other side into admitting Obamacare is failing. They can’t defend it, so the question is what do you replace it with: Bernie’s solution, our solution, or is there a third way. I doubt there will be a third way that fundamentally changes Obamacare, but it gives us time to find that out,” Graham told TheDCNF.
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