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U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine
Fr. Mark Hodges Fr. Mark Hodges

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Senate cancels vote to defund Planned Parenthood, repeal Obamacare

Fr. Mark Hodges Fr. Mark Hodges

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 26, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Senate Republicans decided today to scrap a vote on a proposed bill to repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood.

At a Republican lunch meeting on Tuesday, party leadership determined that the necessary votes were not there to take advantage of the "reconciliation" process that required a simple majority for passage by September 30. The GOP failed to secure majority support in the U.S. Senate after Sen. Susan Collins of Maine effectively killed the bill when she announced her opposition Monday night, becoming the third GOP senator to say she would not vote for passage.

The bill, which President Donald Trump has promised to sign, had much stronger Republican support in the House than in the Senate. Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Rand Paul of Kentucky announced earlier that they would not vote for the plan.

"Why have a vote if you know what the outcome is and it's not what you want. I don't know what you gain from that. But I do believe that the health care issue is not dead, and that's what counts," said Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama. "We've got some time this year to deal with it and I think we have to."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, had revamped their last-hope legislation to appeal directly to Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

Cassidy/Graham's revision defined Murkowski's state as well as Arizona and Kentucky as “high-spending, low-density,” giving them more federal aid. Cassidy released a table Sunday that shows Alaska receiving three percent more federal funds and Maine getting 43 percent more.

"Alaska, Arizona, Maine and Kentucky are big winners in the Healthcare proposal," Trump tweeted Sunday night.

But Collins' opposition ensured that there would not be enough votes to pass the bill because of the Republican defections despite their 52-48 majority in the Senate.

The last-minute revision was very close to the previous Graham-Cassidy bill, which LifeSiteNews reported on. One significant revision allowed states to determine health insurance standards without federal waivers. That meant states could allow insurers to omit previously required benefits, such as mental health care and drug addiction treatment.  

Under the new revision, states may also set their own out-of-pocket (deductible) limits for coverage. And the revision gives decision-making authority to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, whereas the original Graham-Cassidy bill gave that authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Collins objected after reviewing a Congressional Budget Office report that predicted millions of Americans would lose insurance coverage by 2026 under the plan.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, both wanted "technical changes" to the bill, saying states need to be able to get out of more Obamacare regulations.

White House director of legislative affairs Marc Short has confirmed that a vote is scheduled for this week.

Paul has stood against the bill from the start, saying he wants nothing less than complete repeal of Obamacare.  

Conservatives have expressed frustration and disappointment in the Republican-controlled House, Senate and Presidency as numerous attempts to defund Planned Parenthood failed because of McCain, Murkowski, and Collins.

Liberals continued to criticize the bill. Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, called the bill “dangerous” and a “red siren moment for the entire country.”  

"Lives are at stake," Planned Parenthood said in an ironic September 23 fundraising email about the bill. 

Despite McCain giving his word that he would support Graham-Cassidy if Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey supported the bill, the senator came out against it last Friday.

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.  

Cassidy brought up the Charlie Gard case on Monday night as an example of government-run healthcare gone bad. Charlie's case is the "logical extension" of what the left wants, he said. "The single-payer [healthcare system] of England said" the decision about Charlie's life was "too important for the parents to make, and then the child died."

Graham thought his bill was 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 would be able to 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.

After this week, Republicans will need 60 votes to overcome a Democrat filibuster to repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood.

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