Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has decided to pull the plug on Cassidy-Graham, the GOP’s latest attempt to repeal Obamacare.
This is exactly what happened in July when House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) dropped healthcare legislation on the eve of an anticipated losing vote.
Lawmakers agreed during a luncheon on Tuesday that there was no point voting on Cassidy-Graham. The party could afford to lose only two votes, and three Republicans had already promised to vote “no.” Those three Republicans were John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine, and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
“The US Senate cannot get the text of a bill on a Sunday night, then proceed to a vote just days later, with only one hearing – and especially not on an issue that is intensely personal to all of us,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who criticized the “lousy process” of the proposal. McCain had a similar stance.
As discussed during the Tuesday luncheon, some senators wanted to vote on the bill just to show the party they did all they could to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but many argued that voting on a doomed bill would harm the party’s reputation.
"Why have a vote if you know what the outcome is and it's not what you want?" asks Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL).
There were also worries that President Trump would continue to attack Republicans if they gave up on their seven-year promise to end Obamacare.
After the decision was made, Trump said that he was “disappointed” in GOP Senators who refused to support Cassidy-Graham and even threatened to work with Democrats on future healthcare legislation.
Senator Bill Cassidy, who authored the healthcare bill with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), admits that Republicans lost a race against the clock: “Time was the enemy. Some people didn’t like the process so we needed hearings to have them feel better about the process and we didn’t have time for those hearings.”
The Senate returns to “regular order” at the end of the month. After that, they will need 60 votes to pass legislation.
Graham says Republicans will revisit the repeal effort next year, using the budget resolution for FY 2019 to enable them to evade a Democratic filibuster. “We’re coming back to this after taxes. We’re going to have time to explain our concept,” said Graham on Tuesday. “To my Republican colleagues, we’re going to fulfill our promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.”
Vice President Mike Pence has urged Republicans not to use the deadline as an excuse to forget about health care.
The healthcare debate is far from over. As Larry Horist puts it, the mainstream media has a way of calling the final score at the end of each inning.
"Look, we haven't given up on changing the American healthcare system,” said McConnell on Tuesday. “We're not going to do it this week, but it still lies ahead of us. We haven't given up on that. Where we go from here is tax reform.”
It’s better to “focus on taxes right now,” agreed Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA).
In the meantime, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has promised that Democrats are ready to work with Republicans to improve Obamacare. “Once this bill goes down, we’re ready to work with you to find a compromise that stabilizes markets, that lowers premiums.”
“We hope we can move forward and improve healthcare, not engage in another battle to take it away from people, because they will fail once again if they try,” said Schumer.
Editor's note: Another swing, another miss. Still not over.