Senate GOP weighs how to fail on Obamacare

Senate Republicans are on track to fall short in their last-ditch attempt to repeal Obamacare this week — now they’re just debating how best to fail on their seven-year campaign pledge. With three GOP senators formally opposed to the latest bill to unravel the health care law, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his conference will mull whether to hold a vote that is almost certain to go down on the Senate floor, according to senators and aides. Story Continued Below “It’s gonna be up to the leader,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said of holding a vote. “But I’d be happy to do it.” Others are less eager. "No. Why would we?" said one GOP senator when asked if they will vote on the bill. The discussion will take place at the Senate GOP’s weekly party lunch later Tuesday, Republicans said. McConnell could go ahead and schedule a vote, in order to show the conservative grassroots and the broader party that the Senate GOP did all it could to dismantle the law. But there is also concern about the optics of going ahead with a failed vote. The bill drafted by Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) gained surprising steam earlier this month, yet struggled to pick up the final handful of votes needed for Senate Republicans to pass Obamacare repeal with a simple majority. Republicans who oppose Graham-Cassidy include GOP Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, John McCain of Arizona and Susan Collins of Maine, who formally announced her position Monday evening. The bill would transform Obamacare funding into block grants for the states, make deep cuts to Medicaid and allow states to roll back insurance regulations, drawing opposition from moderate Republicans like Collins. McCain bemoaned the rushed process for moving a partisan bill. The conservative Paul, meanwhile, said the plan maintained too much of Obamacare. A number of other wary Republicans had also yet to endorse the bill, and a flurry of last-ditch changes did nothing to win over skeptics. Democrats urged Republicans to finally drop their push to gut Obamacare and instead work with them to improve the law. “To Senator Collins and to the rest of my Republican colleagues, I want to say this: Once repeal is off the table, we want to work with you to improve the existing system,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor Monday night. “Once this bill goes down, we’re ready to work with you to find a compromise that stabilizes markets, that lowers premiums.” But even though Graham-Cassidy might be dead, few Republicans expect a sudden shift to bipartisanship. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, who led bipartisan negotiations earlier this month with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), said the environment simply isn't conducive to it. "We stopped the bipartisan talks last week because my goal wasn't just to get a bipartisan agreement — it was to get a bipartisan result. I didn't see any way to get one in the current political environment," he said, shortly before Collins announced her opposition. "That environment hasn't changed, maybe it does change — but it hasn't."
Utne Altwire: healthcare



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