Action Alert: you have until September 30 to kill this zombie ‘Trumpcare’ bill

The Senate parliamentarian told senators that Tea-Publicans’ ability to pass an Obamacare replacement with just 51 votes expires at the end of September. Repealing Obamacare Just Got Even More Complicated. It was not entirely clear to me whether the Continuing Resolution (CR) that Congress passed a couple of weeks ago would extend this deadline, but everything I have read since indicates that the September 30 deadline remains in effect.

OK, zombie hunters. Last week Tea-Publicans introduced their desperation zombie “Trumpcare” bill. You know what you have to do.

Steve Benen explains, The final fight of the Republican health care crusade has arrived:

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) formally unveiled the only remaining Republican plan to overhaul the nation’s health care system.

NBC News obtained an advanced draft of the proposal, which has been percolating for a couple of months.

The 23-page summary draft and an explanation of funding, which Graham’s office confirmed is authentic, attempts to achieve parity in federal funding between states that expanded Medicaid and those that did not by 2026. That division was one that helped to kill the Senate’s efforts because senators from expansion states tended to oppose the legislation in its previous versions due to the roll-back of the Medicaid expansion.

The bill also provides federal money to states to implement their own health care plan as opposed to one system for all 50 states that exists under Obamacare.

We’ve discussed many of the profound flaws in this plan before, and we can go into more detail once the legislation is available for scrutiny. For now, however, let’s consider whether the Graham-Cassidy plan has a credible chance at success.

Note: There are at least 46 Tea-Publicans who would vote for a blank piece of paper, sight unseen, if they are told it repeals Obamacare,  consequences to Americans, the health care system, and the economy be damned.

[T]he bill will have to receive a score from the Congressional Budget Office, receive committee scrutiny, pass the committee, be subjected to Byrd Rule scrutiny, receive a floor debate, face a series of votes on amendments, and pass the Senate with 50 votes. At that point, the House would have to pass the same bill as-is, or make changes that the Senate would again approve with 50 votes.

In order for the plan to become law, all of this has to happen by Sept. 30 at midnight.

This isn’t to say it’s impossible, but even the most ambitious Republicans should concede this is a steep cliff to climb.

As the process moves forward, there are a few key angles to keep in mind.

First, in theory, this bill will be considered under “regular order,” which means the legislation will have to go through committee, which will take quite a bit of time. If GOP leaders decide to short-circuit the process and bring the bill directly to the floor, senators like John McCain should balk, but whether they’d follow through on their stated principles is unclear.

Note: On September 6, Sen. McCain told The Hill that he backs a bill from Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) that would convert Obamacare spending into block grants for states. “If it’s not through regular order then it’s a mistake, but it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t vote for it,” McCain said when asked about his previous statements. McCain later clarified via a statement that he had not changed his mind about insisting that any effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, must involve convening hearings, holding open debates and allowing amendments from Republicans and Democrats.

Second, the relevant committee is the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (also known as HELP), which has 23 members – 12 Republicans and 11 Democrats. Among the GOP senators on the panel are Maine’s Susan Collins, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, and Kentucky’s Rand Paul. If even one of them opposes the plan in committee, it will fail.

Third, Rand Paul is already expressing opposition to Graham-Cassidy, largely because it keeps so many of the taxes that are already part of the Affordable Care Act. In fact, the Kentucky Republican told reporters yesterday that this plan would “probably” be worse than doing nothing. Of course, Rand Paul made similar noises the last time his party took up health care, but in the end, he voted with his party. What he’ll do this time is unclear.

Fourth, keep an eye on how the conservative movement responds to the developments. If some of the major players – Americans for Prosperity, Heritage Action, Club for Growth – shrug their shoulders and focus on tax reform, GOP leaders will be more likely to let Graham-Cassidy wither on the vine. If, however, they demand the party take the plan seriously, the added pressure may help keep it alive.

Despite all of the reasons for skepticism, I’d warn health care advocates against complacency. Congressional Republicans can move pretty quickly when they have a goal in mind, and it’s not exactly a secret that regressive health care policymaking remains a top GOP priority.

Grassroots activism helped kill the far-right health care crusade once. It may be necessary to do so again.

In a follow-up post, Benen adds GOP crusaders claim they can nearly pass their ACA repeal bill:

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., believes he has the support of 48 or 49 GOP senators, which followed a similar assessment from Lindsey Graham yesterday, who said he thinks the bill has 47 or 48 votes.

Let’s note a few relevant details for the record. First, Cassidy, Graham, and their allies have every reason to exaggerate: if they can manufacture a sense of momentum, it improves their odds of success. These senators may claim to be on the precipice of passage, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the votes are there.

But to assume they’re fibbing carries all kinds of risks. If health care advocates are complacent, and Cassidy and Graham really are just a couple of votes shy of 50 with two weeks remaining, the consequences may be catastrophic for millions of American families.

Second, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said this morning that he “cannot support” the Graham-Cassidy bill, which suggests the proposal is in real trouble. Then again, the last time Senate Republicans tried to tackle health care legislation, Rand Paul made similar comments – right before he voted with his party anyway.

Third, it’s true that timing is running out, but let’s not forget that as recently as last month, Senate Republicans slapped together a ridiculous bill over lunch; several GOP senators said they hated it; and that night it nevertheless received 49 votes. With this in mind, a lot can happen in two weeks.

My point is not to sound alarmist. Chances are, Graham-Cassidy will fall short, especially with some key conservative groups withholding their support from the effort, and many GOP leaders turning their attention to tax reform.

But to assume that this will fail strikes me as dangerous.

Agreed. It’s time to ramp up your phone calls to your senators, especially to John McCain to insist on “regular order” which has become his mantra. You have until the end of the moth to kill this zombie “Trumpcare” bill. It’s time to earn your “Zombie kill of the week.”

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