U.S. Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham speaks at the the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Forum in Des Moines, Ia., Sept. 19, 2015. 
Photo by Brian C. Frank/Reuters

GOP crusaders claim they can nearly pass their ACA repeal bill


There’s every reason to be skeptical of the Republicans’ last-ditch effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a regressive, far-right alternative. The last bill standing – a package unveiled this week by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), and their allies – is a dreadful piece of legislation, which has a closing window of opportunity.

As we discussed the other day, the bill has to get a Congressional Budget Office score, go through committee scrutiny, pass the committee, be subjected to Byrd Rule scrutiny, receive a floor debate, face a series of votes on amendments, and then pass the Senate with 50 votes. From there, the House would have to pass the same bill as-is, or make changes that the Senate would again approve with 50 votes.

All of this will have to happen by Sept. 30 at midnight – which is two weeks from tomorrow.

Just about everyone believes this won’t happen, and yet, as the Washington Examiner noted this morning, the bill’s leading sponsors sure do seem optimistic about their chances.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said Friday that more senators have told him they support his proposal to overhaul Obamacare, bringing the total to as many as 49 votes. […]

“I’m confident we’ll get there on the Republican side,” Cassidy said. “People are coming out and saying they are for it, either publicly or privately.”

The Louisiana Republican believes he has the support of 48 or 49 GOP senators, which followed a similar assessment from Lindsey Graham yesterday, who said he thinks the bill has 47 or 48 votes.

Let’s note a few relevant details for the record. First, Cassidy, Graham, and their allies have every reason to exaggerate: if they can manufacture a sense of momentum, it improves their odds of success. These senators may claim to be on the precipice of passage, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the votes are there.

But to assume they’re fibbing carries all kinds of risks. If health care advocates are complacent, and Cassidy and Graham really are just a couple of votes shy of 50 with two weeks remaining, the consequences may be catastrophic for millions of American families.

Second, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said this morning that he “cannot support” the Graham-Cassidy bill, which suggests the proposal is in real trouble. Then again, the last time Senate Republicans tried to tackle health care legislation, Rand Paul made similar comments – right before he voted with his party anyway.

Third, it’s true that timing is running out, but let’s not forget that as recently as last month, Senate Republicans slapped together a ridiculous bill over lunch; several GOP senators said they hated it; and that night it nevertheless received 49 votes. With this in mind, a lot can happen in two weeks.

My point is not to sound alarmist. Chances are, Graham-Cassidy will fall short, especially with some key conservative groups withholding their support from the effort, and many GOP leaders turning their attention to tax reform.

But to assume that this will fail strikes me as dangerous.