GOP Senators to try again with Obamacare replacement proposal

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(Bloomberg) -- Republican Senators Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham said Thursday they will introduce a revised version of their proposal to replace Obamacare, with the goal of getting a vote by the end of this month.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised a vote in September if the senators can line up 50 of their colleagues to back the measure, Cassidy said in an interview, adding that President Donald Trump is supportive of the plan.

The longshot move would face significant obstacles, including Senator John McCain’s insistence that any healthcare plan go through the “regular order” of committee hearings and debate on amendments. McCain, who said in a statement Wednesday he supports the Graham-Cassidy plan’s concept, provided the critical “no” vote in July that killed the Senate’s earlier Obamacare replacement plan.

The two senators’ proposal, which they floated during the previous Obamacare debate, would send federal money to the states in block grants while repealing Obamacare’s mandates that all Americans have insurance and most employers provide it.

“This literally would repeal and replace Obamacare with a fundamentally different approach," Graham said in an interview.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said in an interview last week with a Wisconsin newspaper that the proposal “has got merit and has legs under it.”

Cassidy, of Louisiana, said the new version, to be introduced next Monday, will be generally the same as proposal he and Graham offered before but with revised formulas for money to be provided to states. Graham, of South Carolina, said the senators need to make the formulas work better for more states, including McCain’s home state of Arizona.

Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said his panel is working separately on a narrow, bipartisan plan to stabilize rates in the Obamacare insurance market. He said he hasn’t seen the Cassidy draft, but that the Senate can consider both proposals.

Cassidy said his bill is being drafted under a procedure allowing it to be passed with 51 votes, which means it would have to be voted on by the end of the month. The Congressional Budget Office will take two to three weeks to provide a financial analysis of the proposal, he said.

Cassidy said he and Graham spoke Wednesday with Vice President Mike Pence, who he said has been encouraging about the proposal. He said Graham and Trump also have spoken regularly about it.

Second-ranking Senate Republican John Cornyn of Texas said he wasn’t aware of a commitment to bring the measure to the floor. He said repealing Obamacare is very difficult, but he would be in “front of the line” to try again.

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