Republicans struggle to keep ObamaCare repeal alive

Republicans struggle to keep ObamaCare repeal alive
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Senate Republicans are struggling to find a path forward on their latest bid to repeal and replace ObamaCare, in the face of ongoing resistance within their own party.

GOP leadership is heading toward a potential vote this week on a bill from GOP Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration We are running out of time to protect Dreamers US trade deficit rises on record imports from China MORE (S.C.) and Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyTax bill could fuel push for Medicare, Social Security cuts Collins to vote for GOP tax plan Overnight Tech: Lawmakers want answers on Uber breach | Justices divided in patent case | Tech makes plea for net neutrality on Cyber Monday MORE (La.) without 50 votes locked down. 

Two more senators on Sunday indicated resistance to the bill in its current form, and if they turn into hard "no" votes - added to the opposition already announced - then Republicans will not be able to pass the bill.

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Backers of the bill—including Cassidy and Graham, as well as Trump administration officials—insisted during Sunday show appearances that the legislation, that replaces ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion and insurance subsidies with block grants, could still pass the Senate this week.

"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."

Short added that he anticipated a vote on the healthcare legislation to come up on Wednesday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters MORE (R-Ky.) hasn't formally scheduled a vote but said last week that he "intends" to bring up ObamaCare repeal.

Graham and Cassidy separately insisted during a joint interview on ABC News that they thought they could get the bill across the finish line despite an increasingly uphill battle.

"I think we're going to get the votes next week. We're using the exact same process the Democrats did to pass ObamaCare," Graham said.

GOP leadership faces no room for error if they want to pass the legislation by Cassidy and Graham, which is also co-sponsored by GOP Sens. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonOvernight Cybersecurity: Panel pushes agencies on dropping Kaspersky software | NC county won't pay ransom to hackers | Lawmakers sound alarm over ISIS 'cyber caliphate' GOP chairman warns of ISIS's ‘cyber caliphate’ Overnight Finance: House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama | GOP leaders to consider Dec. 30 spending bill | Justices skeptical of ban on sports betting | Mulvaney won't fire official who sued him MORE (Wis.) and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerDems look to use Moore against GOP Senate hearing shows Fed chair nominee acts the part Senate GOP votes to begin debate on tax bill MORE (Nev.).

The Republicans have 52 seats and need 50 senators to back the proposal while depending on Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PencePence allies worried he'll be called to answer questions from Mueller: report Trump thought it was ‘low class’ for Pence to bring pets to VP residence: report Pence told RNC he could replace Trump on ticket after 'Access Hollywood' tape came out: report MORE break a tie. GOP Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat Meghan McCain knocks Bannon: 'Who the hell are you' to criticize Romney? Dems demand Tillerson end State hiring freeze, consult with Congress MORE (R-Ariz.), a close friend of Graham’s, and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulLexington mayor launches bid for Congress Trump-free Kennedy Center Honors avoids politics Meet the Iran hawk who could be Trump's next secretary of State MORE (Ky.), have both said they are “no” votes.

And hurdles for the legislation continued to crop up on Sunday, with key holdouts questioning whether they will be able to support the bill.

"It’s very difficult for me to envision a scenario where I would end up voting for this bill," GOP Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids Study: ObamaCare bills backed by Collins would lower premiums Right scrambles GOP budget strategy MORE (R-Maine) told CNN's "State of the Union."

She added that she had a handful of “serious reservations” about the bill, including its impact on pre-existing conditions, Medicaid and the cost and coverage levels for health insurance.

Separately, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzDebbie Wasserman Schultz marks 10 years as breast cancer survivor Foreign agent registration is no magical shield against Russian propaganda Let Trump be Trump and he'll sail through 2020 MORE (R-Texas) said he is not prepared to support the Graham-Cassidy bill at the moment, and predicted that Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSupreme Court takes on same-sex wedding cake case House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama Trump really will shrink government, starting with national monuments MORE (R-Utah) isn't voting for it either.

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

Cruz, noting that he wants to get to “yes" on the bill, said he and Lee are pushing for changes to the legislation.

"We said if you take these edits we're a yes. They took our edits and then a day later they removed our edits," Cruz added.

The comments underscore the herculean task currently facing leadership: with Paul and McCain as “no” votes, leadership has to win over every other member of the Republican caucus that ranges from moderates to firebrand conservatives.

Senators and the White House are involved in a spate of final hour negotiations as they try to win over several key holdouts.

Graham, echoing a tweet from Saturday by President Trump, said he thought they could potentially win back Paul—an uphill effort that could give them more leeway.

“I think Senator Paul associated health plan married up with our bill changes health care,” the South Carolina senator said.

Short added that “we hope we can earn his support, because when else would he get the opportunity to vote on a bill that actually provides real entitlement reform.”

Republicans are under a tight timeline to try to clear ObamaCare repeal by a simple majority. The special fiscal year 2017 budget rules that allow them to avoid a Democratic filibuster expire at the end of the month.

Though Cruz called Sept. 30 a “bogus deadline,” the Senate parliamentarian has determined that the current rules expire at the end of the fiscal year.

Republicans could package rules for healthcare into their fiscal year 2018 budget, though that could complicate their effort to pass tax reform.

But Paul appeared dug in on his opposition to Graham-Cassidy without substantial changes.

“They could remove the block grants from it and then we could vote on actually what we all agree on,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press,” adding that the block grants create a “food fight” among the states.

The block grants, however, are a key part of the legislation.