The Senate Finance Committee was forced to briefly delay its hearing on the Republican health-care bill on Monday after police were called in to remove loud protesters, many of whom were representing the disability rights group ADAPT, The Hill reports. The demonstrators chanted "no cuts to Medicaid, save our liberty" and "kill the bill, don't kill me," and could still be heard in the hallways after they'd been removed from the room.
This is Colleen of ADAPT.
I have no idea what this country is supposed to be pic.twitter.com/de86rRuLiM
— Jeff Stein (@JStein_Vox) September 25, 2017
Growing frustrated with the noise, panel chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) snapped: "If you want a hearing, you better shut up."
On Sunday, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) released a new draft of their bill designed to win over a small handful of holdout GOP senators.
Update: A spokesperson for Capitol Police released a statement Monday night saying a total of 181 protesters were arrested. "Fifteen demonstrators were arrested and charged with disruption of Congress," Eva Malecki said. "143 individuals were arrested after refusing to cease and desist with their unlawful demonstration activities in the hallway. Twenty-three individuals were charged with crowding, obstructing, or incommoding and resisting arrest." Jeva Lange
A new draft of the Republican health-care bill would reportedly let Alaska and Hawaii keep ObamaCare
Republicans have just days left to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with only 50 votes and no Democrats. With two no votes already — Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — "undecided" Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) could cast the decisive vote against it. As a result, one Republican Senate aide told Independent Journal Review on Thursday that the bill's sponsors, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), are potentially considering "buying" Murkowski's vote by letting her state more or less keep ObamaCare.
The draft is by no means final, nor is it certain that Murkowski would accept the revision. For her part, Murkowski has told reporters that when it comes to the Republican legislation, "what I'm trying to figure out is the impact on my state."
Independent Journal Review lists three provisions that could benefit Murkowski's state. "Alaska (along with Hawaii) will continue to receive ObamaCare's premium tax credits while they are repealed for all other states" and the draft "delays implementation of the Medicaid per capita caps for Alaska and Hawaii," IJR reports. Politico also reports of a potential "Medicaid delay" that would "apply to Alaska, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana, based on their low-density populations."
For the rest of America, Graham-Cassidy would convert ObamaCare's subsidies and Medicaid payments to block grants to states, allowing each state ample leeway to decide coverage rules and patient protections, plus cut Medicaid sharply and change its structure. Read the full details at IJR. Jeva Lange
Lindsey Graham admits his health-care bill has 'imperfections,' urges colleagues to vote for it anyway
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the co-sponsor of the Republican health-care bill, was overheard on his cell phone at Reagan National Airport calling on colleagues to vote for the legislation despite "all its imperfections," The Associated Press reports. AP learned that Fox News host Sean Hannity was on the other end of the line.
"We're going to vote," Graham added to Hannity in an interview. "Everybody will be held accountable."
Graham is not the only one to think that Republicans are moving forward on less-than-ideal legislation, though. On Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told The Des Moines Register that "I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn't be considered." He explained, though, that "Republicans campaigned on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign. That’s pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill."
The Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week. Jeva Lange
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) stunned his colleagues in the Senate when he torpedoed the Republican health-care bill with a tie-breaking no vote in July. With the GOP prepared to send its latest iteration of the health-care bill to the floor sometime next week, McCain is now poised to potentially make or break the legislation yet again.
Republicans have a Sept. 30 deadline for passing a health-care bill with only 50 votes. The Congressional Budget Office won't have its analysis on how much the bill would affect coverage or its costs for consumers until October. Additionally, the hearing on the bill will be before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee, which "does not have primary jurisdiction over health care, making a formal markup of the bill impossible," Politico writes.
Despite the bill's co-sponsor, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), being McCain's close friend, McCain has stressed to Politico that he is dissatisfied with how his party is pushing the bill. "Nothing has changed," he said Wednesday. "If [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell wants to put it on the floor, that's up to McConnell. I am the same as I was before. I want the regular order."
Asked to clarify if that means he is voting no, McCain replied: "That means I want the regular order. It means I want the regular order!"
Three GOP defections would kill the bill. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) are believed to be opposed to the bill. In addition to McCain, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is reportedly on the fence about the legislation. Jeva Lange
Louisiana Secretary of Health Rebekah Gee sent a letter on Monday to Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) expressing her "deep concerns" about his proposed Graham-Cassidy bill. "In its current form, the harm to Louisiana from this legislation far outweighs any benefit," Gee wrote about the health-care bill, which was introduced last week by Cassidy and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) as the Republican Party's last-ditch effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare.
Gee wrote that she's particularly concerned about the consequences that ending Medicaid expansion in 2020 would have for Cassidy's home state. She noted that in "only one year," Louisiana has been "able to provide more than 433,000 Louisianians with coverage, resulting in more than 100,000 primary care visits, tens of thousands of screenings for cancer, and thousands of new mental health services." "This would be a detrimental step backwards for Louisiana," she wrote, warning that the bill's proposal to end the expansion could cause "thousands" of Louisianians to "lose coverage and access."
She also worried that the Graham-Cassidy bill includes the "same per capita cuts" as the summer's failed health-care bill, which would have resulted "in profound cuts to Louisiana's most vulnerable citizens, including children, the disabled, and pregnant women." Also problematic, Gee wrote, is the fact that the plan makes it easier for states to waive essential health benefits and price protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions or "complex and costly conditions." "Finally, this bill, like ones before it, uniquely and disproportionally hurts Louisiana," she wrote.
Republicans have until Sept. 30 to pass the bill with a majority vote. Three 'no' votes in the Senate would kill it. Already, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has come out firmly as a 'no,' and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is expected to oppose it, too.
Read Gee's letter in full below. Becca Stanek
— Rebekah Gee (@rebekahgeemd) September 19, 2017
Sen. John Kennedy wants to make sure no states use the GOP health-care bill to create single-payer systems
As Republican senators gear up for a last-ditch attempt at repealing ObamaCare, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) wants to confirm that the GOP bill can't be used by states to set up single-payer health-care systems, The Washington Examiner reports. "I don't think states should have the authority to take money from the American taxpayer and set up a single-payer system," Kennedy said. "Some people think that's inconsistent with the idea of flexibility, but that's what the United States Congress is for. I very much believe in flexibility, and I know governors want flexibility, but it's our job to make sure that money is properly spent."
The health-care bill, which was introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), would effectively replace much of ObamaCare with state block grants and phase out Medicaid expansion. Kennedy insisted an amendment would be needed because "if you give a big chunk of money to California they're going to go set up a single-payer system run by the state and then come back and say, 'We don't have enough money, we need more.'"
"I think a single-payer system is a bad idea," Kennedy said.
As one of the bill's authors, Graham said he was doubtful states would be able to use the legislation to create their own universal health-care plans due to the complications of federal labor laws, The Washington Examiner reports. But "if California wants to go down the single-payer road, knock yourself out," Graham told Breitbart. Jeva Lange
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has consistently butted heads with his Republican colleagues over their attempts at writing health-care legislation. In the waning weeks of September, Paul is still holding his ground, even as the GOP eyes a final attempt at passing a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act after falling one vote short in July. Republicans technically have until Sept. 30 before they lose the ability to pass a bill with just 50 votes plus Vice President Mike Pence.
An uncompromising libertarian, Paul tweeted Monday that even as his party rallies for a last-ditch attempt at repealing the ACA, Republicans will have to count him out if they don't do more to squash the vestiges of ObamaCare:
Graham/Cassidy keeps Obamacare and tells the states to run it. No thanks.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) September 18, 2017
No consevative should vote for a rebranded trillion dollar spending program just because it adds some block grants.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) September 18, 2017
Keeping 90% of Obamacare is not ok and it's not what we ran on. Conservatives should say no.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) September 18, 2017
As Matthew Walther writes at The Week: "The GOP leadership cannot please [the Republican Party's core constituents] and simultaneously placate the handful of sober moderate voices in the party" nor please hardliners like Paul who believes attempts at a Republican bill contain "a series of quasi-Stalinist intrusions into the ancient liberties of free men enshrined in our glorious Constitution." Read more here. Jeva Lange