A third GOP senator, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she will vote against the GOP ‘Graham-Cassidy’ health care bill, likely killing the measure – and any Obamacare repeal hopes – for good.
Releasing a statement Monday evening, the moderate Collins had a laundry list of concerns about the legislation, from a shrinking Medicaid budget to fewer protections for patients with pre-existing conditions.
What put Collins in the nay column, however, was the preliminary Congressional Budget Office score.
‘So it was that final piece of the puzzle that I had been waiting to confirm,’ the Maine Republican said, speaking to CNN.
Shortly before Collins made her announcement, the nonpartisan scorekeeper reported that while the Graham-Cassidy proposal would reduce the budget deficit by $133 billion, millions fewer people would be insured.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Monday that she would not be voting for Graham-Cassidy, derailing any hopes that the GOP might get a bill across the finish line this week
Collins called this a ‘substantially negative impact’ that she could not support.
As a sweetener on the deal, bill authors Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., had retooled the bill early Monday, giving Collins’ state of Maine more money.
Instead of endearing her to the legislation, that ultimately turned Collins off.
‘But even more important, if senators can adjust a funding formula over a weekend to help a single state, they could just as easily adjust that formula in the future to hurt that state,’ Collins pointed out in her statement, which expressed her no vote.
‘This is simply not the way that we should be approaching an important and complex issue that must be handled thoughtfully and fairly for all Americans,’ she said.
Already the health care legislation was providing Capitol Hill with plenty of drama.
Protesters shouted down senators and clogged up the hallways of a Capitol Hill office building Monday, as the Senate Finance Committee held the sole hearing on the Graham-Cassidy health care bill.
‘If you can’t be in order, then get the heck out of here,’ griped Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the committee’s chairman, as he continued to be interrupted, despite earlier calling a 15-minute recess to clear some of the protesters from the room.
While opponents, including some in wheelchairs, were being arrested on Capitol Hill, Republicans had been making changes to the health care bill, as a last-ditch effort to get an Obamacare repeal passed before the end of the fiscal year.
Monday started out with Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., retooling their bill and doling out additional funds to the trio of states where several GOP hold-outs live.
More federal dollars would go to Kentucky, Arizona and Alaska in the latest revision, Politico reported, a sweetener to bring Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, on board.
Paul, speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper Monday afternoon, confirmed that he’s still a firm no.
Bill sponsors Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La. (left) and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. (right) were both on hand at a Senate Finance Committee hearing as they make a last-ditch effort to get their Obamacare replacement passed
Two Capitol Police officers drag a blind protester out of a congressional hearing room Monday as Republicans try for a final time, this fiscal year, to pass an Obamacare replacement bill
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. (center) huddles with colleagues Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio (left) and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. (right), at a Senate Finance Committee hearing Monday, which was interrupted by activists
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La. (left) closes his eyes in frustration as protesters filled the hearing room where senators were supposed to discuss his health care bill
Protesters clogged the halls of Capitol Hill Monday, expecting to be arrested, as senators held the one and only hearing on the GOP’s health care bill
A woman in a wheelchair carrying the sign, ‘I’m not Bon Jovi, I can’t live on a prayer, I need Medicaid,’ is wheeled out of a Capitol Hill office building by the U.S. Capitol Police
Another activist, opposed to the latest GOP health care plan, is hauled away Monday by the U.S. Capitol Police
On Sunday night, President Trump tried to urge the senators to move to the yes column, tweeting, ‘Alaska, Arizona, Maine and Kentucky are big winners in the Healthcare proposal.’
Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins has also suggested she’s unlikely to vote for the bill.
Trump also distanced himself from the success or failure of the health care push.
Talking to reporters Sunday, Trump said he believed ‘eventually’ the GOP would pass an Obamacare repeal, though he suggested tax reform, which he is just getting to this week, has always been his bigger concern.
‘Eventually we will win on that,’ Trump said from the tarmac as he boarded Air Force One to head back to D.C. ‘My primary focus, I must tell you, it has been from beginning, as you might imagine is taxes.’
Trump seemed miffed that Republicans were once again fouling up an opportunity to nix Obamacare, as he ticked off the benefits to the states the GOP hold-outs represent.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., released a statement Friday saying he would vote no on the Graham-Cassidy plan. Now they’re throwing more money at Arizona to get him to reconsider
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, photographed as she’s mobbed by reporters last week, hasn’t publicly announced how she plans to vote on Graham-Cassidy
Republican bill sponsors are throwing more money to states, including Kentucky, to try and get hold-outs, like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on board
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Sunday at the Texas Tribune Festival that he doesn’t support the Graham-Cassidy ‘right now,’ which further hinders Republican plans to kill Obamacare
President Trump told reporters Sunday that the Republicans would ‘eventually’ win on health care, though said taxes has been a bigger priority for his presidency anyway
Critics of the plan suggest that even an increase in dollars to particular states represents a cut, as Medicaid will be put on a budget.
‘Every state you’re talking about it happens to be particularly good for. So I don’t know what they’re doing,’ Trump argued.
But it was Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who was the surprise GOP senator to suggest he could be a no vote on the Graham-Cassidy bill.
‘Right now, they don’t have my vote and I don’t think they have Mike Lee’s vote either,’ Cruz said at the Texas Tribune Festival on Sunday, suggesting his fellow conservative Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, could also be a no vote, according to Politico.
Cruz’s comments came as Collins said on both Face the Nation and State of the Union that she’s likely a no as well.
‘Well, it is hard for me to envision getting to yet on this bill, because my concerns are so fundamental,’ Collins, a moderate from Maine, told CBS’ John Dickerson on Sunday morning.
It was always going to be difficult for Republicans to thread the needle on a health care reform bill, with their margins in the Senate so thin.
Even with the vote of Vice President Mike Pence, the GOP could only afford to lose the support of three senators.
Already, Paul was a no.
On Meet the Press Sunday, the Kentucky senator argued that the Graham-Cassidy bill ‘basically keeps most of the Obamacare spending – almost all of the spending – and just reshuffles it and block grants it to the states.’
Paul has long wanted to fully repeal Obamacare and implement various market reforms, such as allowing Americans to buy health insurance across state lines.
On Friday, Paul was joined in the no column by McCain who derailed the Republicans last health care reform effort as well, voting against the so-called ‘skinny’ Obamacare repeal.
This time around, McCain said he couldn’t ‘in good conscience’ support the Graham-Cassidy proposal, even though Graham is his longtime Senate friend.
‘I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried,’ McCain said.
The leaders of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., had made an effort to work with one another on an Obamacare fix.
Then Republicans became skeptical of Democratic motives when Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., introduced a Medicare for all bill, which received support from about one-third of the Democrats in the Senate, of both moderate and progressive bent.
At the same time, Democrats saw Republicans continuing to work on the Graham-Cassidy proposal, which Graham and Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., first spoke publicly about in July.
Thus, bipartisan efforts were derailed.
McCain also said he couldn’t support the Graham-Cassidy bill without a full score from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, worrying about the cost of the measure, how it will impact insurance premiums and how many Americans could be helped or hurt by it.
The CBO said it could produce a preliminary report on the proposal, though not a full one by the September 30 deadline, which Republicans were aiming for so they could use reconciliation to pass the bill, meaning they would need just majority support.
‘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,’ McCain said in a statement Friday.
Collins voiced concerns about the CBO score as well.
‘CBO’s analysis in the past has been very helpful to me in evaluating bills such as the previous bills that I opposed,’ she said.
The Maine Republican had also voted no on the ‘skinny’ repeal, alongside Murkowski.
‘The problem is, CBO may have a very difficult time analyzing the bill because it still seems to be a moving target, even over the weekend,’ Collins continued. ‘The sponsors were making changes in it, and I think that’s part of the problem, you can’t – when we’re dealing with a sixth of our economy and millions of people – you can’t do sound health insurance policy this way.’
‘You need to have extensive hearings,’ she added.
Instead there was just one hearing, before the Senate Finance Committee, which had been booked as a way to give McCain some cover, before he announced his no vote.
‘If the hearing is going to devolve into a sideshow or a forum simply to put partisan points on the board, there’s absolutely no reason for us to be here,’ Hatch said as lawmakers finally got it under way on Monday.
Shortly after that, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called the bill a ‘health care lemon’ and blasted Republicans for not booking a bigger room.
The committee chamber they were in, ‘only has space for about 30 members of the public,’ Wyden griped.