Less than 24 hours after Donald Trump’s attempt to bully the NFL into submission failed spectacularly, he suffered an even more crushing defeat. The Republican attempt to ram a repeal of the Affordable Care Act through the Senate went down in flames on Monday night when Susan Collins of Maine announced her opposition.
Maine’s senior Senator had dropped a loud hint late last week that Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina had a hard sell to make in order to get her support for their last-ditch proposal to repeal Obamacare. That plan would have replaced the Obamacare scheme with a block grant program administered by the states. Collins was concerned that the Graham-Cassidy version of Trumpcare would allow insurers to raise premiums to unsustainable levels.
Collins’ vote became even more critical on Friday afternoon when John McCain of Arizona declared that he would vote against the bill. With Kentucky’s Rand Paul already a firm “no” and no Democrat willing to even consider supporting this bill, that meant the Senate Republicans were dependent on Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaking vote to push it through.
If even one more Republican defected, the bill was dead. And if the Republicans couldn’t scrape together a majority before September 30, they would no longer be able to use budget reconciliation rules to avoid a certain Democratic filibuster.
On Sunday’s edition of CNN’s “State of the Union,” Collins sounded like she was very close to voting against the bill. Watch here.
Collins told host Jake Tapper that it was “very difficult for me to envision a scenario” where she could support Cassidy-Graham. She has “very serious reservations” about how it would affect premiums and deductibles, as well as its erosion on protections for people with pre-existing conditions. However, she was waiting for the Congressional Budget Office’s preliminary assessment of the bill before making a final decision.
Believing there was a light at the end of this tunnel after all, Graham and Cassidy tweaked their bill to add a number of sweeteners for Collins and another Republican who was on the fence, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski. This latest proposal would have shifted more money to Maine and Alaska than under previous incarnations.
But it wasn’t enough. Just after 6:15 p.m. Eastern, Collins ended the suspense.
— Sen. Susan Collins (@SenatorCollins) September 25, 2017
Collins was clearly not impressed by the 11th-hour attempt to essentially buy her vote, saying that there was nothing to prevent the extra funds intended for Maine from being taken away in the future. She also repeated her previous concerns about its impact on coverage and people with pre-existing conditions. Echoing McCain, she also had severe reservations about enacting such major legislation without anything even resembling regular order.
Even though Collins’ announcement dealt this bill a fatal blow, the defections may have continued from there. Ted Cruz of Texas said hours before Collins’ statement that he and another tea partier, Mike Lee of Utah, weren’t willing to support this latest incarnation of Cassidy-Graham just yet. Soon after Collins’ announcement, Cruz also said that he was a firm no. Assuming Lee was of the same mind, this bill was poised to go down, 53-47.
With reconciliation no longer a viable option, any major health care legislation is more or less dead on arrival for this year without Democratic support. So now the Senate Republicans find themselves having to do something that they openly admit they weren’t prepared to do this year–actually govern.
(featured image courtesy Obama White House, part of public domain)