At 1:50 p.m. (ET) yesterday, Politico reported that the Republican campaign to overhaul the nation’s health care system has effectively run its course.
Senate Republicans are throwing cold water on the idea of holding another Obamacare repeal vote before their opportunity to gut the law on a party-line vote expires at the end of this month.
Almost exactly an hour later, at 2:52 p.m. (ET), Bloomberg Politics reported the exact opposite.
Republican Senators Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham said Thursday they will introduce a revised version of their proposal to replace Obamacare, with the goal of getting a vote by the end of this month.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised a vote in September if the senators can line up 50 of their colleagues to back the measure, Cassidy said in an interview, adding that President Donald Trump is supportive of the plan.
So, which of these reports is correct? As odd as this may seem, they’re both largely right.
A week ago, when the Senate parliamentarian announced that Senate Republicans have until the end of the month to pass their health care bill with just 50 votes, it looked like the GOP’s repeal crusade was just about dead. Indeed, one of the most striking political aspects of this was that practically no one on the right responded to the parliamentarian’s ruling by saying, “Quick, let’s get this done before it’s too late!” Instead, the news was met with quiet resignation.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) seemed to throw a lifeline to the repeal campaign this week, before clarifying that he expects any health care bill to follow regular order, which involves a process anti-health care forces simply don’t have time for.
GOP leaders, reluctant to keep banging their heads into this particular wall, and still recovering from its last attempts at health care legislating, sent every signal that they’d welcome the Sept. 30 deadline and leave this issue behind them.
The trouble is, there are 52 Senate Republicans – and they’re not all on the same page.
Donald Trump has told GOP lawmakers he still wants them to tackle a health care bill one more time, and he’s expressed support for the outrageously regressive Graham-Cassidy-Heller proposal (the last Republican health care plan standing). Its proponents still believe their scheme can pass, and aren’t ready to quit just yet.
And so, a plan of attack has taken shape: Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham, Bill Cassidy, and Dean Heller intend to wrap up work on their plan and unveil the legislative text by Monday. At that point, the bill would go to the Congressional Budget Office for scrutiny, which could take a week or two.
That would leave Republicans with about five days on the legislative calendar to bring the bill to the floor, debate it, consider amendments, and pass it though both the Senate and House, before the window of opportunity closes.
Is this likely to happen? GOP leaders are saying no; proponents of the Graham-Cassidy-Heller plan are saying yes. We’ll find out who’s right very soon, but health care advocates who assumed the fight was over should probably think again.
Asked yesterday about the developments, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said, “It’s like the zombie apocalypse,” which sounds about right. At least between now and Sept. 30, the crusade to take coverage from millions simply won’t die.
Update: On Twitter this morning, Trump seemed to make the case that he wants Congress to move on from health care and focus on tax reform.