AUSTIN, Texas — Sen. Ted Cruz on Sunday said he doesn’t support the latest Obamacare repeal plan, dealing a fresh blow to Republicans’ last-ditch effort to kill Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
After seven years of promises to repeal Obamacare, Republicans have six days to pass legislation with a party-line vote. But with Cruz’s opposition, at least five Republicans in the 52-member caucus have signaled that they either won’t vote for or are leaning against supporting the Graham-Cassidy bill.
The legislation, authored by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, would block-grant federal health care funding to the states.
Graham expressed optimism Sunday that Republicans will pass the bill this week, even after Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and John McCain of Arizona have said they will vote “no.”
The bill, however, faces two obstacles aside from Paul and McCain: time and math. Saturday is the last day Senate Republicans can use the reconciliation budget tactic to pass repeal legislation with a simple majority, rather than the usual 60 votes, and they don’t appear to have the votes.
“Right now, they don’t have my vote,” Cruz said during a panel discussion at the Texas Tribune festival in Austin that also included Sen. John Cornyn. “And I don’t think they have Mike Lee’s vote, either.”
Cruz said he and Lee offered amendments to the Graham-Cassidy proposal last week that would go further in bringing down Obamacare premiums. But the changes, he said, weren’t included in the latest draft of the bill.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine signaled earlier Sunday that she’s unlikely to support the plan. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has also withheld support so far.
Cruz and Cornyn said they back the way the bill would convert Obamacare funding into a system of block grants to states. But while Cornyn said he would vote for the bill as it stands, Cruz said he wants to see more changes, though he didn’t elaborate.
Texas and other states that didn’t expand coverage under Obamacare would fare well under the Graham-Cassidy plan, according to independent analyses of the bill. One by Avalere Health projected the state would gain $35 billion between 2020 and 2026.
While the House narrowly passed Obamacare legislation in May, Republicans in the Senate have failed on three occasions to follow suit. The inability of Republicans, who have for years campaigned on the pledge to undo Obamacare and now control the House, Senate and White House, has reportedly upset donors, who are withholding their financial contributions.
President Donald Trump has tried to sway votes, using his massive Twitter platform to warn that Republicans who don’t support Graham-Cassidy “will forever … be known as ‘the Republican who saved ObamaCare.’” But so far, his efforts haven’t proven successful.
On Sunday, he told reporters the Graham-Cassidy plan would benefit Arizona, Maine and other states whose senators have aired concerns.
“So I don’t know what they’re doing, but you know what? Eventually we’ll win, whether it’s now or later,” Trump said, though he said his bigger priority was tax reform.
Dozens of protesters gathered outside the University of Texas auditorium where the Cruz panel was being held to protest the repeal efforts.
Cruz said repealing Obamacare remains his top priority and suggested that Republicans could find a way to resurrect a repeal measure after the Sept. 30 deadline for passing a bill through the reconciliation process.
“September 30 is a bogus deadline,” Cruz said. “We can do budget reconciliation or resolution at any point.”
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