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Fr. Mark Hodges Fr. Mark Hodges

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Republicans give final push to repeal Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood

Fr. Mark Hodges Fr. Mark Hodges

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 20, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Congress has just days to accomplish campaign promises to defund Planned Parenthood, stop abortion coverage mandates, and replace Obamacare.

After numerous failed attempts, legislation championed by U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, would accomplish those promises. But Republicans have only until September 30 to use the “reconciliation” process, which avoids a Democratic filibuster and passes budget-related legislation with a simple 50-vote majority.

Republicans had that simple majority in past attempts to rescind Obamacare and Planned Parenthood tax dollars, but Senators John McCain of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Susan Collins of Maine reversed their previous votes to vote “No,” keeping socialized medicine and the nation’s largest abortion chain funded.

Conservatives have expressed frustration and disappointment in the Republican-controlled House, Senate and White House as numerous attempts to defund Planned Parenthood failed.

But the Graham-Cassidy bill is gaining momentum:

  • Last Thursday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised to bring the bill to the floor if Cassidy and Graham can deliver the 50 votes to pass it.   

  • On Monday, House Speaker Paul Ryan called the bill the “best, last chance” to replace Obamacare and said if the senate passes it, the House will also.  

  • Two Senate committees announced hearings on the bill.  

  • President Trump “applauded” the legislation “to address the Obamacare crisis.”

Graham and Cassidy are drumming up votes along with Senators Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, and Dean Heller, R-Nevada, in an effort to gain the 50 votes needed, plus Vice President Mike Pence’s tiebreaking vote, to pass the measure.  

“It should have been our first bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, but it is now our last,” Graham said. “To those in the Republican Party who feel like we have not fought as hard as we could, you’re right.”

They are fighting now.

Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, noted the stunning last-ditch effort was a surprise. He said Obamacare repeal “was six feet under” but “grave robber” Sen. Cassidy “revived it to the point where there’s actually a lot of positive buzz and forward momentum.”  Nevertheless, Thune warned “it still comes down to, in the Senate, getting 50 votes.”

Pro-abortion liberals are beginning to take the Graham-Cassidy bill as a serious threat to tax-funded abortion-on-demand. Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, called the bill “dangerous” and a “red siren moment for the entire country.” Abortion activists are organizing protests and phone calls to legislators to stop the bill.

The bill does face an uphill battle. Getting 50 votes means several Republican senators will have to compromise on Medicaid expansion, something they said they would not do.

Besides the previously insurmountable vote count, Congress is in session only three days this week, and so has basically only next week to bring the bill to the floor, go through the amendment process, and pass it.  

Furthermore, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) needs to analyze how the bill will impact premiums and if people will lose healthcare coverage. On Monday the CBO said their analysis will take “several weeks,” but they will issue a “preliminary assessment” early next week. Democrats are balking at the idea of passing the bill without a full CBO analysis.

McCain, Collins, and Murkowski, the cohorts who sank previous attempts to rescind Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood, remain uncommitted. Collins said she was “concerned” about Medicaid. Murkowski said she was “still looking” the bill over.

McCain has sent a mixed signal that he’s “open” to the bill yet he does not see “any possibility” he can support it in its current form. He also laments its partisan, rushed nature.

On Monday however, McCain offered conservatives some hope when he said he might “reluctantly” vote for the bill if his state’s governor supported it. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey released a statement saying the bill “is the best path forward to repeal and replace Obamacare ... Congress has 12 days to say ‘yes’ to Graham-Cassidy. It’s time for them to get the job done.”

Despite his previous assurance, McCain has not found Gov. Ducey’s support of the bill enough for him to come out publicly in favor of it.

Only one Republican has come out firmly and publicly against the legislation. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky says he wants nothing less than a full and complete repeal of Obamacare. He said the Graham-Cassidy bill keeps “90 percent of the spending of Obamacare and reshuffles it.”

Besides defunding Planned Parenthood for one year and eliminating Obamacare’s forced abortion coverage mandate, the legislation would transfer money allocated by Obamacare for Medicaid expansion and federal subsidies to the states.  

Sen. Graham says his bill is more likely to pass than previous attempts because it puts states in the driver’s seat. “I believe that most Republicans like the idea of state-controlled healthcare versus Washington D.C.-controlled healthcare,” he said.

The states may use the money to help citizens afford insurance, or help insurers — which must provide coverage to all — by subsidizing high-risk pools of patients with previously-existing conditions. Under the Graham-Cassidy bill, insurers would be allowed to charge more for customers depending on their medical history. It would also allow states to include a work requirement.

If the bill passes the Senate, it would have to also pass the House without any changes.

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