This week: GOP faces deadline for ObamaCare repeal
© Greg Nash

Republicans are heading toward a looming end-of-the-week deadline to repeal ObamaCare without a clear path to passing a bill.

GOP lawmakers, eager to score a policy and political win, had hoped that momentum and a hard deadline would finally allow them make good on their years-long campaign promise to nix the Affordable Care Act.

Instead, the ObamaCare repeal legislation is facing a growing number of hurdles despite insistence by key senators and the Trump administration that they could still get 50 votes before Sept. 30. 

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsStates fill family caregiver void left by Congress GOP senator: ObamaCare fix could be in funding bill Collins: Pass bipartisan ObamaCare bills before mandate repeal MORE (R-Maine) hinted on Sunday that she would likely be unable to support the legislation from GOP Sens. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyTrump met Senate Republicans on ObamaCare fix Senate GOP tax bill will include repeal of ObamaCare mandate Alabama GOP chair warns party officials against write-in campaign MORE (La.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamAlabama election has GOP racing against the clock Graham on Moore: 'We are about to give away a seat' key to Trump's agenda Tax plans show Congress putting donors over voters MORE (S.C.), which replaces ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion and insurance subsidies with block grants to the states. 

"It’s very difficult for me to envision a scenario where I would end up voting for this bill," GOP Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told CNN's "State of the Union."

But Collins added while she has "serious reservations" about the bill—including its impact on Medicaid and individuals with pre-existing conditions—she's waiting until a preliminary Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis to make her final decision.

Graham and Cassidy, aiming to keep their bill alive, made last-minute changes to the bill over the weekend including directing more funding toward states of key hold-out senators, including Maine and Alaska. 

On the opposite side of the GOP caucus from Collins, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTexas Republicans slam White House over disaster relief request Dem rep: Trump disaster aid request is 'how you let America down again' Moore endorsements disappear from campaign website MORE (R-Texas) said separately on Sunday that he wasn't yet ready to back the legislation, but noted he and Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeProminent conservative passes on Utah Senate bid Johnson says he will not support tax-reform bill Moore endorsements disappear from campaign website MORE (R-Utah) are pitching potential changes to the legislation. 

"Right now they don't have my vote and I don't think they have Mike Lee's either," Cruz told the Texas Tribune.

Lee's office has noted he is working to get changes into the bill, and Cruz added on Sunday that "I want to be a yes."

GOP leadership can't afford to lose either Cruz or Collins if they want to get the Graham-Cassidy legislation, which is also co-sponsored by GOP Sens. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerAnother perfect storm: Why we must act before flood insurance runs dry Senators introduce bipartisan gun background check bill Dem PAC bullish on Senate chances MORE (Nev.) and Ron Johnson (Wis.), through the Senate. 

Republicans have 52 seats and need 50 GOP senators to allow Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceSome WH aides anxious over Russia probe despite reassurances from Trump lawyer: report Paul Krugman unwittingly fulfills fiscal fantasies for Republicans Ex-Pence aide on Rosie: She promised to leave US if Trump won and she's still here MORE to break a tie. With GOP Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump's dangerous Guantánamo fixation will fuel fire for terrorists Tech beefs up lobbying amid Russia scrutiny Ad encourages GOP senator to vote 'no' on tax bill MORE (Ariz.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulCongress must end American support for Saudi war in Yemen Black men get longer prison sentences than white men for same crimes: study Sarah Palin on sexual harassment: 'People know I'm probably packing' so they 'don't mess with me' MORE (Ky.) already opposed to the bill, leadership needs to win over every other member of the Republican caucus. 

Several key senators, including GOP Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenate bill would cut EPA funding by 0M GOP senator: ObamaCare fix could be in funding bill Collins: Pass bipartisan ObamaCare bills before mandate repeal MORE (Alaska), remain on the fence. No Democrats are expected to support it. 

But Graham and Cassidy, as well as the White House, remain adamant that they will be able to pass the healthcare legislation. 

"It’s not dead,” Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, told “Fox News Sunday." "Here we are, just days away from a final vote and we’ve trying to win over the support of the last couple senators to get there." 

Trump also lashed out at McCain over the weekend, targeted Murkowski by arguing her state is being hurt by ObamaCare and predicted that Paul could ultimately become a "yes" vote. 

Short noted he anticipated a vote would take place on Wednesday, though it hasn't formally been scheduled. 

Spokesmen for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAlabama election has GOP racing against the clock McConnell PAC demands Moore return its money Klobuchar taking over Franken's sexual assault bill MORE said last week that he "intends" to bring up Graham-Cassidy this week, but the Kentucky Republican has been tight lipped in the wake of McCain's announcement. 

GOP senators have been skeptical that the push will succeed.

"I'll be honest, it seems unlikely that we'll be voting on this," Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said during a town hall late last week.

And Sens. Cruz and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have both predicted Republicans will not ultimately be able to get 50 votes.

“It's not clear if we're going to get to 50 votes or not,” Cruz told conservative radio host Michael Berry.

Republicans have until Sept. 30 to pass an ObamaCare repeal bill and avoid a Democratic filibuster using rules laid out as part of the fiscal year 2017 budget. 

Republicans, if they fail to meet the deadline, could try to use the fiscal year 2018 budget that they still need to pass to pave the way for taking another shot at repealing ObamaCare, but that could complicate their effort to pass tax reform. 

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchProminent conservative passes on Utah Senate bid Republicans offer this impossible choice: Tax cuts or senior care Senate GOP running out of options to stop Moore MORE (R-Utah) told Bloomberg that there's "a chance" they could pair the two items in the next budget resolution but "it's not easy."


Tax reform

After struggling for most of this year to fulfill their campaign pledges on health care, Republicans will soon be moving to another pillar of their agenda: tax reform.

Republicans plan to roll out a tax reform framework on Wednesday in hopes of building momentum.

House Republicans will gather for a half-day retreat away from the Capitol campus to discuss the tax reform framework and allow rank-and-file members to offer feedback.

GOP leaders and the White House are hoping to finish tax reform by the end of the year, using the same budgetary procedure that would allow them to circumvent a Democratic filibuster in the Senate.

But if the failed effort to repeal ObamaCare is any indication, passing legislation to reform the tax code for the first time since 1986 will be a tall task for the GOP.

Republicans initially hoped to send an ObamaCare repeal bill to Trump’s desk by his first 100 days in office, which most certainly didn’t turn out as planned.

Internal disagreements remain on how to move forward. President Trump said earlier this month that “the rich will not be gaining at all” from tax reform and suggested they may even pay more. That would be at odds with Republicans who want to lower taxes for all Americans.

There’s also debate by how much Republicans want to cut the individual and and corporate tax rates. Trump has called for lowering the corporate tax rate from the current 35 percent to 15 percent, but Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDem: Ex-lawmaker tried to pin me to elevator door and kiss me Two months later: Puerto Rico doesn’t have power, education or economy running again On Capitol Hill, few name names on sexual harassment MORE (R-Wis.) said that might not be feasible and suggested something closer to 20 percent.

The dearth of major legislative accomplishments since Trump took office is amplifying pressure on Republicans to get something done on tax reform. The conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks warned that a failure to pass tax reform “could be the end of the GOP as we know it.”

End-of-September deadlines

Congress faces multiple deadlines at the end of this week to ensure major programs don’t expire.

Among them is an authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Lawmakers are expected to pass a six-month extension this week as they continue work on a long-term reauthorization.

Republicans on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee are pushing a controversial proposal to separate air traffic control from the federal government as part of a long-term bill.

Amid the recovery efforts for recent hurricanes, lawmakers attached a provision to the FAA extension that would encourage the creation of private flood insurance markets to provide consumers with more coverage options.

Another part of the legislation would offer tax relief for victims of the hurricanes, including a waiver from the penalty for making early withdrawals from retirement accounts.

The bill also extends certain health care programs to assist health centers with graduate medical education programs and providing care to people with severe immunodeficiency diseases.

But one expiring program is not scheduled for action this week: the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health care for about nine million low- and middle-income children.

Lawmakers appear to have some wiggle room for reauthorizing CHIP, however. The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission projected in July that most states won’t exhaust their funds until early 2018.

Three states and the District of Columbia are expected to run out of funds by December, but that would still provide Congress with some more time beyond the official expiration at the end of this week.

A House Energy and Commerce Committee aide said no imminent action on a CHIP reauthorization has been scheduled at this time.

“Bipartisan committee leaders continue to have productive conversations regarding an extension of federal funding for CHIP,” the spokesperson said.

The top members of the Senate Finance Committee — Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenCongress faces growing health care crisis in Puerto Rico Photos of the Week: Nov. 13-17 Senate panel approves GOP tax plan MORE (D-Ore.) — announced a five-year deal earlier this month.

The extension includes a gradual reduction in enhanced federal matching funds that were first included in the Affordable Care Act, beginning in 2020.

But the deal, temporarily overshadowed by the revived ObamaCare debate, still needs to be scheduled for floor time and pass the Senate.

Melanie Zanona and Niv Elis contributed.