WASHINGTON (Reuters)—Republican leaders sought to nail down the final votes needed to pass what U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday called their “last best chance” to repeal Obamacare while a new analysis underscored how Democratic-leaning states stand to lose large amounts of federal funding under the legislation.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) plans to bring the bill introduced by fellow Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) to a vote next week, as his party seeks to make good on seven years of promises to erase Democratic former President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement.
With no Democratic support for the bill, Republicans remain a handful of votes short in the Senate, needing 50 votes in a 100-seat chamber they control 52-48, with Pence casting a potential tie-breaking vote. Senator Rand Paul opposes it and at least six others are undecided: John McCain (R-Ariz.), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).
Asked whether the legislation will pass, Pence said, “We’ll see. We’re close.”
Republicans, still reeling from their failure in July to win Senate passage of previous legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare, have set a Sept. 30 deadline for passage of this bill.
“This may well be our last best chance to stop and turn around and head America back in the direction of the kind of healthcare reform that’s based on individual-choice, state-based innovations,” Pence told Fox New Channel.
President Donald Trump has been pushing Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare, which would fulfill one of his top campaign promises from last year.
The current bill would take money that the federal government now spends on healthcare through the Medicaid insurance program for the poor and subsidies to help Americans buy private insurance and distribute it to the states in block grants.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has not yet assessed the bill’s effects but independent analyses indicate it would fundamentally redistribute federal healthcare money, generally with Republican-leaning states benefiting and Democratic-leaning states losing.
The nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, a healthcare research group, estimated on Thursday that states that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare would lose $180 billion under the bill from 2020 to 2026, while non-expansion states would gain $73 billion in the same time period.
The Graham-Cassidy bill in 2020 would end the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, which many Democratic-governed states had carried out while many Republican-governed states did not, and limit overall federal spending on the five-decade-old program regardless of how many Americans qualify for its benefits.