Washington, D.C. Sept 22: “I cannot in good conscience vote for Graham-Cassidy. A bill impacting so many lives deserves a bipartisan approach.” U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) posted on Twitter today, friday. The Arizona Republican’s announcement that he could not “in good conscience” support the latest GOP proposal to substantially repeal the Affordable Care Act, all but certainly dooms the effort. McCain became the third Senate Republican to oppose the legislation offered by Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, which was headed for a floor vote next week.
Republicans could only afford to lose two of their 52 members and have Vice President Mike Pence cast a tie-breaking vote to pass the bill. Republicans were up against a September 30 deadline for using a budget process that would circumvent a Democratic filibuster and allow them to pass health-care legislation with only 51 votes.
McCain also ended the last GOP bill in July, returning to the Senate after being diagnosed with brain cancer only to cast a surprising and dramatic 50th vote against a limited-repeal of Obamacare offered by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. But until Friday afternoon, he was officially undecided on the Graham-Cassidy proposal, apparently torn between his disgust for the party’s rushed, partisan legislative process and his famously close friendship with Graham, its most vocal salesman.
Democrats reacted to McCain’s announcement with the same mix of relief and praise as they did after his surprising thumbs-down in July. The word “hero” lit up Twitter timelines, as Obamacare supporters likened McCain’s decision to his years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
On Capitol Hill, Democrats quickly called for a return to bipartisan negotiations to shore up the law’s shaky individual-market insurance exchanges. “John McCain shows the same courage in Congress that he showed when he was a naval aviator,” said the Senate minority leader, Charles Schumer. “I have assured Senator McCain that as soon as repeal is off the table, we Democrats are intent on resuming the bipartisan process.”
Photo: U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ)
But it was unclear what Republicans intended to do. There was no immediate word from McConnell on whether he would still bring up Graham-Cassidy for a vote next week that now is likely to fail. Meanwhile, Graham issued a statement saying that while he disagreed with McCain’s position, “My friendship with [McCain] is not based on how he votes but respect for how he’s lived his life and the person he is.” As for his bill, Graham said, “We press on.” But he did not lay out a path forward, either for the legislation he offered or for the GOP’s broader goal of repealing Obamacare—both of which appear, again, to be out of reach.
On His website he also released the statement below.
U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) released the following statement today on health care reform:
“As I have repeatedly stressed, health care reform legislation ought to be the product of regular order in the Senate. Committees of jurisdiction should mark up legislation with input from all committee members, and send their bill to the floor for debate and amendment. That is the only way we might achieve bipartisan consensus on lasting reform, without which a policy that affects one-fifth of our economy and every single American family will be subject to reversal with every change of administration and congressional majority.
“I would consider supporting legislation similar to that offered by my friends Senators Graham and Cassidy were it the product of extensive hearings, debate and amendment. But that has not been the case. Instead, the specter of September 30th budget reconciliation deadline has hung over this entire process.
“We should not be content to pass health care legislation on a party-line basis, as Democrats did when they rammed Obamacare through Congress in 2009. If we do so, our success could be as short-lived as theirs when the political winds shift, as they regularly do. The issue is too important, and too many lives are at risk, for us to leave the American people guessing from one election to the next whether and how they will acquire health insurance. A bill of this impact requires a bipartisan approach.
“Senators Alexander and Murray have been negotiating in good faith to fix some of the problems with Obamacare. But I fear that the prospect of one last attempt at a strictly Republican bill has left the impression that their efforts cannot succeed. I hope they will resume their work should this last attempt at a partisan solution fail.
“I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried. Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will affect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it. Without a full CBO score, which won’t be available by the end of the month, we won’t have reliable answers to any of those questions.
“I take no pleasure in announcing my opposition. Far from it. The bill’s authors are my dear friends, and I think the world of them. I know they are acting consistently with their beliefs and sense of what is best for the country. So am I.
“I hope that in the months ahead, we can join with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to arrive at a compromise solution that is acceptable to most of us, and serves the interests of Americans as best we can.”