With the shot clock about to expire, Republicans on Capitol Hill may have the ball in their hands again for another chance at what was supposed to be an easy lay-up. Yesterday, Sen. John McCain — who stuck a stake through the heart of the previous ObamaCare repeal effort — announced that he would endorse the only vehicle left remaining. McCain even said that he’d put aside his distaste for operating outside regular order to vote for the Lindsey Graham-Bill Cassidy version of repeal-and-replace:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Wednesday that he supports a newer version of an ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill, throwing some support behind the last-ditch effort.
McCain said he backs a bill from Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) that would convert ObamaCare spending into block grants for states. …
“If it’s not through regular order then it’s a mistake, but it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t vote for it,” McCain said when asked about his previous statements.
McCain hedged on that point, however, when pressed on it again:
“As I have said all along, any effort to replace Obamacare must be done through the regular order of committee hearings, open debate and amendments from both sides of the aisle,” McCain said in a statement.
Ask and ye shall receive.
AP: Sen. Cassidy (R-LA) and Sen. Graham (R-SC) will introduce Obamacare repeal bill on Monday with "full White House support"
— Josh Caplan (@joshdcaplan) September 7, 2017
Monday is September 11, which gives Republicans 19 days to push it through the Senate. The odds have improved remarkably, thanks to the deals cut by Donald Trump to push off fights over the budget and debt ceiling off to December. Suddenly, Congress has a fairly light legislative calendar this month.
That may be just a wild coincidence, but … don’t bet on it. If Trump can get a win on ObamaCare repeal because of the sudden bandwidth available for it, his base will rightly hail him for it. Additionally, it will look like a stab in the back from Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to progressives, who never wanted to deal with Trump in the first place.
That’s still a mighty big if, however. Just how likely will passage be? Graham-Cassidy doesn’t have any legislative text, so it technically doesn’t qualify for reconciliation — yet. It will have to reduce Medicaid spending in some form to qualify, which may not gain back Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, although excluding a Planned Parenthood defunding clause might just be enough to get them to back it. The larger question will be whether House conservatives will be satisfied with whatever this ends up producing, or whether the need for a win has grown large enough to outweigh the internecine battles of the past six months.
If this does drop on Monday, the next big milestone to watch will be the CBO score. That will tell us whether passage is a possibility at all.