(WASHINGTON) — It’s a day of dueling health care plans on Capitol Hill. Sen. Lindsay Graham, who’s leading the Republicans’ last-minute effort to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, came out swinging against Sen. Bernie Sanders’ proposal for what he calls “Medicare for all.”
“If you want a single health payer system, this is your worst nightmare,” Graham said. “Bernie, this ends your dream of a single-payer health care system for America.”
Sen. Graham, R-S.C., was joined by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.; Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.; Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.; and former Sen. Rick Santorum.
The Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson plan proposes to send federal money spent on the Affordable Care Act to states in the form of block grants, an idea Santorum pitched to Graham while they were in a barbershop. Their plan would eliminate the medical device tax, the employer mandate and the individual mandate.
The clock is ticking for Congress to pass any repeal or replacement bill in the Senate, which requires a minimum of just 50 votes under the process known as reconciliation. After Sept. 30, legislation will need at least 60 senators to sign on.
So far, Graham’s plan has been met by lukewarm reactions from conservatives who seem exhausted by repeal and replace efforts and those who don’t think its proposed reforms do enough.
Some Republican senators have already seemed to move on, including the Republican chairman of the Senate HELP Committee, Lamar Alexander, who is working on a bipartisan fix to the individual insurance markets. On Wednesday the Heritage Foundation came out against the Graham-Cassidy plan for not going far enough in repealing Obamacare taxes.
Johnson says his plan is the last opportunity for Republicans to follow through with a repeated campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“For those Republicans who say this isn’t quite good enough, it doesn’t do enough of a repeal, this is our last shot,” he said. “Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson is a vast improvement.”
Kellyanne Conway said on Fox News last week that President Donald Trump would be willing to sign on to the Graham-Cassidy bill. Wednesday, Graham made a direct plea to President Trump asking for his support.
“Mr. President, help us,” said Graham. “Pick up the phone. Call some governors … Mr. President, help us, because we’re trying to help you.”
Following the press conference, Trump released a statement that applauded the proposal, but stopped short of offering support.
“I applaud the Senate for continuing to work toward a solution to relieve the disastrous Obamacare burden on the American people. My administration has consistently worked to enact legislation that repeals and replaces Obamacare, and that can pass the Senate and make it to my desk,” said Trump. “As I have continued to say, inaction is not an option, and I sincerely hope that Sens. Graham and Cassidy have found a way to address the Obamacare crisis.”
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