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Senate Leaders Pull Graham-Cassidy Bill Before Vote

Christina Mattina
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, announced that the Senate would not vote on the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in light of a shortage of votes.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, announced that the Senate would not vote on the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in light of a shortage of votes. He was accompanied by the bill’s authors, Senators Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, who vowed to press forward with tax reform now and revisit healthcare later.

Last night, Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced she would oppose the bill, joining 2 other Republican senators and effectively killing any chances of passing it through the budget reconciliation process. The window to use that process, which requires only 50 votes, closes on September 30.

“We haven’t given up on changing the American healthcare system,” vowed McConnell at the press conference, despite his acknowledgement that such a change would not happen this week. He indicated that Congress would now turn to another top priority, reforming the tax code, and said he was “optimistic” about the chances of achieving that goal.

Senator John McCain, R-Arizona, another opponent of the bill, had objected to the rushed process of the bill’s attempted passage and called for a return to regular order with thorough hearings and bipartisan input. Graham indicated in the press conference that the unique legislative circumstances were what killed the bill, not the “substance of the idea.”

He praised the efforts of McConnell and President Donald Trump and said there was “plenty of fight left in” Republicans, who would continue to seek an “alternative to Obamacare” in this session of Congress but “under a better process.”

In addition to Collins and McCain, Senator Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, had repeatedly announced his opposition to the bill, but for a different reason: he felt it did not go far enough to repeal the ACA and asked that the block grant program be cut from the bill. This presented a conundrum for the bill’s architects, as any changes meant to win over Paul would likely result in losing the votes of moderates like Collins and Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who had voted against previous repeal efforts this summer.

During a press conference after McConnell’s announcement, Senate Democrats expressed relief that Graham-Cassidy would not receive a vote and indicated their priorities for the near future. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said Democrats were “ready to move forward and improve healthcare” by passing bipartisan fixes to stabilize the ACA markets. Senator Patty Murray, D-Washington, who had been working with Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, to construct a stabilization plan, said she was ready and willing to pick up where they had left off before Graham-Cassidy gained steam in recent weeks.

“Patty and Lamar are 2 good, terrific negotiators,” said Schumer, adding that he believed an agreement to stabilize the market and contain premiums “can happen and happen quickly.”

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