Lindsay Graham’s last-minute shot before the buzzer at reforming health care has the spotlight of national attention focused squarely on Republican Senate leadership. The deal, Co-sponsored by Republican Senator Bill Cassidy and centered around saving Medicare through block grants, earned President Trump’s blessing and he ordered full steam ahead. Now, all eyes are focused on Senators John McCain and Lisa Murkowski. Insiders say these are the ones to watch because losing either one could cost the vote, along with the chance to finally erase Obama’s signature disaster.
President Trump used his favorite social media to post a tweet this morning, fully endorsing the latest health care reform plan. “I hope Republican Senators will vote for Graham-Cassidy and fulfill their promise to Repeal & Replace ObamaCare. Money direct to States!”
The heat is on to pass the measure before Sept. 30, which is the last day of the government’s fiscal year. Procedural rules allowing a simple majority to approve the idea expire then. After Oct. 1, 60 votes are needed in the 100-seat Senate. Right now, Republicans have a slight 52-48 Senate majority but having a majority on paper has not made much difference for a long time.
For years, Democrats have exemplified the ability to stick together in a solid block of votes. Republicans, on the other hand, have shown treachery for just as long, with “Republicans in name only” consistently turning their backs on party unity.
Both McCain and Murkowski are listed as Republicans but frequently side with liberals in a traitorous display of disloyalty to the conservative constituents they represent. Murkowski and McCain each voted against the most recent attempt to repeal Obamacare, with McCain practically flying straight from surgery to cast the deciding vote that killed the bill.
Kentucky’s Rand Paul is already on record with a no vote this time and Susan Collins of Maine, the third Senator voting no in July, is likely to oppose this time also. That means that both McCain and Murkowski are needed just to strike a tie, which would be broken by Vice-President Pence under Senate Rules.
Murkowski is taking an Alaska first stance. She wants assurance that her vast, remote and thinly settled wilderness state is treated fairly by the new deal. “I’m still looking for the data that walks me through how Alaska actually does,” Murkowski noted on Tuesday.
McCain is dragging his feet over what he sees as a breakdown of the process. Claiming that drawn-out hearings and interim amendments would show more bipartisanship, McCain says “I am not supportive of the bill yet. We’ll talk more about it. I’ll talk with my governor and all that. I want regular order.”
Insiders say that is just taking advantage of the impending deadline to pick an easy out. McCain is miffed because he favors an alternative bill, put out by Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander jointly with Washington Democrat Patty Murray, designed to keep and stabilize Obamacare.
After going through the “order” process of hearings and testimony that McCain is making his hot button, an agreement was produced that McCain was quick to urge his colleagues to adopt. The alternative option is no longer available because it was taken off the table yesterday in favor of the Graham-Collins bill.
Governors across the country are split are in favor of Graham-Collins. Arizona’s Doug Ducey agrees with McCain’s Co-Senator, Jeff Flake, that the plan to strip away the onerous burdens of obligatory insurance, create subsidies for low-income citizens, and guaranteeing coverage for those with preexisting conditions would put decision-making power back into the hands of the states. Ducey calls it “the best path forward.”
Gov. Bill Walker of Alaska is opposed. Known to have some influence over Murkowski, he already expressed his disapproval but Murkowski says she does not have enough data yet to make a decision. Walker was one of 10 governors who signed a letter arguing against Graham-Cassidy and in favor of the Obamacare stabilization scheme.
There are other minor factors that could be just enough to tip the scales. Murkowski is willing to consider agreeing. “In fairness to my governor, in fairness to Alaskans, the numbers actually matter and so if it can be shown that Alaska is not going to be disadvantaged, we gain additional flexibility, then I can go back to Alaskans and I can say, ‘OK, let’s walk through this together,’” Murkowski offered. McCain is close friends with Lindsay Graham. If a couple of even token hearings are held, McCain’s relationship with Graham could be enough to sway his decision.
“I’ll let John speak for himself, but he likes federalism,” Graham optimistically told the White House press pool. “Let’s put it this way, I feel very good about this, and we’ll see.”