GREENVILLE — Even if Senate leaders do not reach the critical 50-vote threshold to pass U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s health care bill, the South Carolina Republican insisted Thursday that the bill needs to be put up for consideration.
“We are going to vote,” Graham told The Post and Courier after a speech to Greenville business leaders. “I don’t think it’s possible for the Republican Party not to try everything to repeal and replace Obamacare.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced Wednesday that he intends to put the bill up for a vote next week, leaving himself wiggle room to withdraw the measure if it appears destined for defeat.
After the high-profile failure of the Senate GOP’s last efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, McConnell has reportedly told colleagues that he will not allow a similarly humiliating episode to happen on the Senate floor again and will only put Graham’s bill up for a vote if it is certain to pass.
But Graham brushed the optics of a potential repeat failure aside, casting his block-grant legislation with Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., as the only chance left for Republicans.
“I’m confident we’re going to have a vote,” he said. “Let’s just put it this way: We need to have the same passion to repeal and replace Obamacare as [the Democrats] had to pass it.”
Graham described McConnell as “incredibly supportive” of his efforts and particularly helpful in pressing the Congressional Budget Office to complete a limited analysis of the bill.
The CBO score is the only stumbling block left to prevent a vote, Graham said, because Senate rules require the nonpartisan analysts to reach a verdict on at least the deficit impact of the bill before it can be passed.
With Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, seen as near-certain votes against the proposal and Democrats united in opposition, Republicans can only afford one more defection. Several key senators remain undecided, including Graham’s best friend, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. South Carolina’s other senator, Tim Scott, R-North Charleston, backed the Graham-Cassidy proposal on Wednesday.
Graham also declared Thursday that South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has come “on board” with the proposal.
But McMaster’s spokesman, Brian Symmes, confirmed to The Post and Courier that the governor’s position has not changed from Monday, when he declined to support the bill and said he was still “studying it closely,” even though he described it as “better than Obamacare.”
Follow Jamie Lovegrove on Twitter @jslovegrove.