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Rand Paul

The GOP has one last chance to repeal and replace Obamacare, and one senator could blow it


Updated September 20, 2017 09:47 AM EDT

President Trump on Wednesday morning called out Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) in a tweet for opposing the latest GOP push to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Paul has said he won't support a bill sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), calling it "Obamacare lite."

Republicans have one last chance to repeal and replace Obamacare, and just one or two Senators could kill the GOP's best hope at finally following through on a promise they've been making for more than seven years.

Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Bill Cassidy (La.) Dean Heller (Nev.) and Ron Johnson (Wisc.) have introduced a bill that would shift federal dollars for medicaid and insurance subsidies under Obamacare to a block grant system so states can set up their own health care networks.

Republicans argue this system would allow Americans to work directly with their state and local government officials to come up with a health care plan that works best for them, and it would make those officials accountable for problems that exist in the state-run health care networks.

The bill would also repeal Obamacare's individual and employer mandates, allow states to require Medicaid recipients to get a job, and it would cut off funding for Planned Parenthood for one year.

"If you believe repealing and replacing Obamacare is a good idea, this is your best and only chance to make it happen," Graham said while introducing the bill last week.

That's because the Senate only has until the end of the month to pass the bill under "reconciliation," the legislative rule that allows passage of certain budgetary measures with a simple majority vote. Once the reconciliation deadline passes, Republicans will have to work with Democrats to get 60 votes to pass any kind of health care legislation.

At least 50 Republicans need to vote "yes" on the bill, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does not plan to even schedule a vote on the bill unless he knows his conference can reach that number.

The three GOP Senators who voted "no" on skinny repeal in July, Lisa Murkowski (Ak.) Susan Collins (Maine) and John McCain (Ariz.) are all undecided on the latest bill, and another Republican Senator has already said he can't stomach the bill in its current form.

In an interview, Paul said the latest health care proposal doesn't fulfill the GOP's campaign promise.

"I've really been for clean repeal all along. That's what I promised voters," he said. "I just didn't promise them, 'Oh yeah, I'm going to keep Obamacare and then block grant it back to the states.' That just doesn't sound like what any of us promised really."

"It proves it’s a lot easier to be united when you’re in the minority than when you are in the majority," said Gary Nordlinger, a political analyst and professor at George Washington University.

Many criticized Sen. Paul on Twitter, saying it's time for Republicans to stop stalling and get something done.

Nikki Mosteller, a self-employed Obamacare enrollee from Germantown, Tennessee, says if Congress doesn't change the health care system soon, her family is going to have to start making some hard choices.

"We're at a point now where we're not going to be able to do this anymore. The options are becoming; sell the house, sell the vehicles," she said.

Paul, who's a doctor, says he's working on another solution with Trump that doesn't require a vote in Congress.

"I’m working simultaneously with President Trump on expanding healthcare associations, this is allowing individuals to buy insurance across state lines and join together to get group policies. They’d not only be protected against pre-existing conditions, but they get the leverage of a group to bring down prices," he said.

A White House official told CNN that Trump would sign the Graham-Cassidy bill if it makes it to his desk, and the White House has been working with the two Senators to try to get the bill to the finish line.

Mosteller says whatever the outcome the entire process has made her lose her faith in her government.

"They're killing us. They're just financially draining us and it's so disheartening to be sitting here as an American saying, 'I no longer trust what these senators are telling us,'" she said.


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