ACA fix scrapped as focus turns to Graham-Cassidy bill

By Danielle Haynes  |  Sept. 19, 2017 at 7:03 PM
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Sept. 19 (UPI) -- A bipartisan effort to fix the Affordable Care Act was scrapped on Tuesday as senators pressed their cases for and against the so-called Graham-Cassidy bill.

Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., said they weren't able to come to an agreement on a bill to stabilize the individual health insurance market. They said they "had hoped to agree early this week on a limited, bipartisan plan to stabilize 2018 premiums in the individual health insurance market that we could take to Senate leaders by the end of the month."

"During the last month, we have worked hard and in good faith, but have not found the necessary consensus among Republicans and Democrats to put a bill in the Senate leaders' hands that could be enacted," Alexander said.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and the White House told Senate Republicans they were against Alexander and Murray's attempts.

An unnamed congressional source told Politico that Ryan said the House "would not be able to pass a bailout of insurers."

"The White House also told GOP leaders that [Obamacare subsidies] without repeal would not work," the source added.

In wake of the scrapped plan, Alexander said he'd consider voting for a bill introduced last week by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

Vice President Mike Pence tweeted Tuesday that he was returning to Washington, D.C., from New York City -- where he was attending U.N. General Assembly events -- to meet with Graham and "urge Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare."

Under the proposed legislation, certain parts of Obamacare would be repealed, including the individual mandate. Instead of giving subsidies to insurers and funding for Medicaid expansion, states could apply for block grants.

Republicans are wanting to pass the bill using the budgetary process of reconciliation, the deadline for which is Sept. 30. So far, it's short of the 51 votes needed to pass, and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he would bring the legislation to the floor for a vote if it has the support of at least 50 senators.

But Tuesday, Democrats spent the day on social media and in rallies on Capitol Hill speaking against the Graham-Cassidy bill. Both Sens. Charles Schumer, of New York, and Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, spoke at a rally one day after sending a letter to the Congressional Budget Office asking for a full analysis of the Republican legislation.

Sanders offered his thoughts in a series of posts on Twitter.

"I honestly cannot explain why any senator would vote for Graham-Cassidy, such a cruel bill. But Republicans almost have the votes," he said.

"Our job over the next five to 10 days is to get the word out about this horrific legislation and do everything we can to defeat it."

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