(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump let Republican senators working on an eleventh-hour effort to repeal Obamacare know he is rooting for them, without explicitly supporting the legislation.
GOP senators Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, and Bill Cassidy, of Louisiana, introduced a bill Wednesday to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with block grants to states, who would determine how to help people pay for health care. Their effort comes as Tennessee Republican Senator Lamar Alexander is working with Washington Democratic Senator Patty Murray to craft a bipartisan, short-term Obamacare fix.
“I applaud the Senate for continuing to work toward a solution to relieve the disastrous Obamacare burden on the American people,” Trump said in a statement. “As I have continued to say, inaction is not an option, and I sincerely hope that Senators Graham and Cassidy have found a way to address the Obamacare crisis.”
Trump last week appeared ready to move on to tax reform.
The repeal bill was introduced on the same day that Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent, rolled out a so-called Medicare-for-All measure that would extend government-provided insurance to all Americans.
Graham and Cassidy have 17 days to get their bill through the Senate before the expiration of rules that allow it to be passed with 50 senators instead of the 60 needed to surmount any filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who leads a 52-seat GOP majority, has told the pair if they get 50 backers, he’ll bring the bill up for a vote. Vice President Mike Pence could be called upon to cast a decisive 51st vote.
Graham said Wednesday it was vital that Trump work the phones with Republican senators and governors to drum up more support for a bill that currently has only four Republican co-sponsors. GOP Senators Dean Heller, of Nevada, and Ron Johnson, of Wisconsin, also signed on to the bill.
Senator John McCain, one of three Republican senators who voted against repeal in July and scuttled the entire effort, said Wednesday he supports Graham-Cassidy but won’t back it until he hears from top officials in his home state of Arizona about its effects on the state.