The GOP may be down for the count in it’s failed attempts to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act—but don’t count Lindsey Graham out just yet.
President Donald Trump met with the South Carolina senator and one of his fiercest critics in the Republican party on Friday night to discuss a bill that would effectively block Obamacare funding, according to two sources familiar with the meeting and legislation currently being drafted. Republican officials tell Politico Graham’s bill could potentially reach 50 votes after a series of failed attempts in recent weeks to both repeal and replace, then simply repeal, Obama’s landmark health care initiative.
After last week’s latest attempt to remove provisions of Obamacare ended with Sen. John McCain’s dramatic “no” vote effectively keeping it alive along with two other senators, Newsweek has found at least 70 Republican-led attempts to repeal, modify or otherwise curb the Affordable Care Act since its inception as law on March 23, 2010.
It remains unclear how Republicans will be able to rally enough votes to adopt Sen. Graham’s bill, which the president and White House officials appear to be supporting behind the scenes. Graham, the South Carolina Republican senator whose repeatedly denounced Trump’s rhetoric and actions since taking office, confirmed Friday night he visited the White House to discuss his health care legislation with the president.
“I had a great meeting with the President and know he remains fully committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare,” Graham said in a statement Friday night. “President Trump was optimistic about the Graham-Cassidy-Heller proposal. I will continue to work with President Trump and his team to move the idea forward.”
“Unless the Republican Senators are total quitters, Repeal & Replace is not dead!” Trump tweeted Saturday afternoon. “Demand another vote before voting on any other bill!”
Republicans have had an obsession-like focus on repealing Obamacare since its inception, with the first attempt to fully repeal the bill from law occurring in 2011 immediately after Republicans gained back control of the Hosue of Representatives. That bill, “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act,” passed in a 245-189 vote with the help of three Democrats, before being voted down in the Senate.
Obama vowed to veto that first attempt by Republicans to repeal one of his largest domestic policy successes, and proceeded to watch as the GOP attempted at least 54 more times throughout his presidency to either “undo, revamp or tweak the law,” Washington Post wrote in 2014.
The president kept his word, vetoing a later attempt to repeal Obamacare on Jan. 8, 2016, sending the bill back to a Congress that didn’t have enough votes to override his veto at the time.
After shooting down the GOP’s efforts, Obama stressed the party should focus on “working together to grow the economy, strengthen middle-class families, and create new jobs” rather than “re-fighting old political battles by once again voting to repeal basic protections that provide security for the middle class.”
There has been some dispute about the exact amount of times Republicans have backed attempts to diminish Obamacare in some way, whether through a “skinny” repeal which curbs critical provisions to Obama’s health care policy, or through an outright replacement like the House’s 2017 “American Health Care Act.” MSNBC Producer Steve Bennen placed the vetoed legislation at #62, though he admits “that may be off by a vote or two.”
Attempts by the Republican party to limit or kill Obamacare entirely range from minor provisions or amendments included in other, larger bills, to landmark replacement plans that would each strip upwards of 20 million Americans off their insurance plans.
There may have been over 70 Republican-led attempts to repeal or otherwise undermine the Affordable Care Act since it was signed into law by Trump’s predecessor, with each major replacement or rollback attempt typically including provisions that would strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood as well. But, of the 70 documented attempts to repeal Obamacare, one statistic is indisputable: zero have been successful.
The 67th attempt to reduce Obamacare occurred on Feb. 3, 2015, when 239 Republicans in Congress voted to rollback the law. The Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015 was passed by the House, amended and later passed in the Senate before Obama vetoed the bill upon arriving at his desk.
The American Health Care Act, which passed in the House but was immediately rejected by Republicans in the Senate, was seen as the Trump administration’s first major failure in its attempt to immediately repeal and replace Obamacare—one of Trump’s key campaign promises throughout the 2016 election.
An outright Republican repeal of the seven-year old law, which created federal policies protecting people with pre-existing conditions and has provided insurance to millions who previously were unable to afford private plans, was also unable to garner enough support to even go up for a vote.
Another “skinny” repeal of the bill, which would roll back major provisions critical to Obamacare’s implementation, was widely reviewed by Republicans on Capitol Hill as one of the final attempts in this term to deal with health care, and was struck down by the unanimous coalition of Democrats and McCain, along with Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins. That would make Wednesday night’s failure at least the 70th documented attempt by Republicans to diminish Obamacare in some capacity, according to Newsweek’s reporting.
The Senate previously voted 51-50 to continue debating health care, though it appeared to be a defeated agenda item before news broke of Graham’s new proposal. It appears Trump hasn’t given up either, meeting with at least three senators to discuss Graham’s meeting, Politico reported Saturday.
House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows, whose coalition of conservative Republicans are critical in passing Republican-backed health care proposals, expressed a willingness to work with the Trump administration and the GOP despite repeated setbacks.
“We’re going to regroup and stay focused,” Meadows said. “I’m still optimistic that we will have another motion to proceed, and ultimately put something on the president’s desk.”
How many more times that may take, is anyone’s guess.