GOP odds rise on ObamaCare repeal

The Trump administration and Republican leaders in Congress are going all-in on a last-ditch effort to replace ObamaCare.

Earlier this month, the GOP effort was all but dead as Republican leaders pivoted to tax reform. But the health-care legislation has picked up a significant amount of momentum over the past several days.

“I’ve never felt better about where we’re at,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump declassification move unnerves Democrats Climate change is a GOP issue, too New Yorker cover titled 'The Shining' shows Graham, McConnell, Barr polishing Trump's shoes MORE (R-S.C.), one of the bill’s sponsors, told reporters after senators met with Vice President Pence to discuss the new health-care proposal.

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“At the end of the day, I really believe we’re going to get 50 Republican votes,” he added.

Other GOP senators said the measure has a real prospect of success.

“Our members are thinking about it, they’re studying it. They’re talking to the authors of the bill. But I think we’ve made good headway,” said Senate Republican Conference Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneFrustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' Hillicon Valley: Assange hit with 17 more charges | Facebook removes record 2.2B fake profiles | Senate passes anti-robocall bill | Senators offer bill to help companies remove Huawei equipment Senate passes anti-robocall bill MORE (S.D.).

The unexpected second wind for the ObamaCare repeal effort has been helped greatly by the deal President Trump struck with Democrats earlier this month to fund hurricane relief and postpone a battle over federal spending and the debt limit until December.

Republicans at the time panned Trump for cutting GOP leaders out of the loop, but now his decision looks like a masterstroke as it has created time on the schedule to take a second shot at health-care reform.

The upcoming deadline of Sept. 30 has also played a leading role in the rising prospects of the legislation. If an ObamaCare replacement bill isn’t signed into law by then under budget reconciliation rules, it would need 60 votes to pass.

Under the special rules, 50 votes plus a tie-breaker from Pence would send it to the House, where leading Republicans have indicated they would pass it and send it to Trump’s desk before the end of the month.

The newest legislative effort, named after co-sponsors Graham and Sen. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyBipartisan senators reveal sweeping health care package Senate passes bill to undo tax increase on Gold Star military families Overnight Health Care — Presented by Campaign for Accountability — House passes drug pricing bills amid ObamaCare row | Senate Republicans running away from Alabama abortion law | Ocasio-Cortez confronts CEO over K drug price tag MORE (R-La.), a physician, would largely dismantle ObamaCare and convert its funding to block grants to states, empowering them to design new programs.

Democrats warn the block grants would be too small and would lead to cuts in Medicaid and other health-care spending.

The bill would also allow states to waive ObamaCare rules, including the prohibition on people with pre-existing conditions being charged higher premiums.

Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump orders more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions What if 2020 election is disputed? Immigration bills move forward amid political upheaval MORE (R-Ky.) told GOP lawmakers at Tuesday’s meeting that this is their last chance to fulfill their promise to repeal ObamaCare.

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonFrustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' Barr throws curveball into Senate GOP 'spying' probe Bipartisan group of senators introduce legislation designed to strengthen cybersecurity of voting systems MORE (R-Wis.), another one of the bill’s sponsors, described Pence’s message as “really strong.”

McConnell warned colleagues that “if we do nothing, ObamaCare continues” and “this is the last best chance for putting ourselves back on a path where states get greater control,” according to Johnson.

Pence and Graham discussed how to whip up support for the bill aboard Air Force Two Tuesday during a flight back to Washington from New York, where they watched Trump’s first address to the United Nations.

Pence told a pool reporter on the flight that the president and the entire administration strongly back the new measure and have called senators and governors to build political support.

Trump phoned Graham, a former rival in the 2016 presidential race, late Monday evening to encourage him and promise his backing.

Pence said ahead of the lunch that he would press wavering senators.

“This is the moment. Now is the time. We have 12 days,” he said, according to the pool report.

GOP leaders have no margin for error.

Conservative Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOvernight Defense: 1,500 troops heading to Mideast to counter Iran | Trump cites Iran tensions to push through Saudi arms sale | Senate confirms Army, Navy chiefs before weeklong recess Trump to send 1,500 troops to Middle East to counter Iran Frustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' MORE (R-Ky.) has already announced he will oppose the legislation because it does not fully repeal ObamaCare, and Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Collins offering bill to boost battery research as GOP pushes energy 'innovation' Biden says Congress must move to protect abortion rights MORE (R-Maine) — who is considering a run for governor — has signaled she is also a likely no. Paul backed the prior Senate health-care measure while Collins rejected the bill, which was defeated by one vote.

Collins has expressed concern that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) will not be able to deliver a full analysis of the legislation before a possible vote next week and said Tuesday she did not receive any new information after meeting with Pence.

She has introduced her own bipartisan proposal with Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonRepublicans amp up attacks on Tlaib's Holocaust comments The muscle for digital payment Rubio says hackers penetrated Florida elections systems MORE (D-Fla.) that would help states create reinsurance programs for their insurance markets to lower health-care premiums.

The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the legislation Monday and a truncated analysis is expected from the CBO early next week.

The nonpartisan budget office has indicated it would take several weeks to draft a full report with projections on premium costs and the number of uninsured.

At least four other Republicans are undecided, including Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainClimate change is a GOP issue, too It's Joe Biden's 2020 presidential nomination to lose Meghan McCain on Pelosi-Trump feud: 'Put this crap aside' and 'work together for America' MORE (Ariz.) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMurkowski celebrates birthday with electric scooter ride Overnight Energy: Park Service plans to pay full-time staff through entrance fees | Oil companies join blitz for carbon tax | Interior chief takes heat for saying he hasn't 'lost sleep' over climate change Democrats grill Trump Interior chief for saying he hasn't 'lost sleep' over climate change MORE (Alaska). Both voted to kill the pared-down ObamaCare repeal bill before the August recess.

Sens. Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanHillicon Valley: Assange hit with 17 more charges | Facebook removes record 2.2B fake profiles | Senate passes anti-robocall bill | Senators offer bill to help companies remove Huawei equipment Senators offer bipartisan bill to help US firms remove Huawei equipment from networks Senators introduce bill to prevent border agency from selling personal data MORE (R-Alaska) and Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoCongress, White House near deal on spending, debt limit GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Congressional Women's Softball team releases roster MORE (R-W.Va.) said they are also undecided about the legislation, which would deliver big cuts in federal aid to their home states.

The effort suffered a setback Tuesday when several key governors — most importantly independent Alaska Gov. Bill Walker — released a letter expressing opposition.

“We ask you not to consider the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson amendment and renew support for bipartisan efforts to make health care more available and affordable for all Americans,” Walker wrote, along with other governors, including John Kasich of Ohio and Brian Sandoval of Nevada. “Only open, bipartisan approaches can achieve true, lasting reforms.”

Murkowski said she is in close consultation with Walker.

Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerThis week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary MORE (Nev.), who is the most vulnerable Republican senator facing reelection next year, was a swing vote during the health-care debate earlier this summer, but he is a co-sponsor of Graham-Cassidy.

The governors instead praised a bipartisan effort at an ObamaCare stabilization measure that had been under negotiation in the Senate Health Committee.

Pence on Tuesday, however, slammed the door on the possibility of moving legislation to shore up the individual insurance markets, noting that Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAmash storm hits Capitol Hill Debate with Donald Trump? Just say no Ex-Trump adviser says GOP needs a better health-care message for 2020 MORE (R-Wis.) has pledged it doesn’t have enough votes to pass the House.

Pence and Ryan spoke by phone during Pence’s return flight to Washington.

Ryan has also told McConnell that a stabilization bill from the Senate Health Committee “isn’t viable” in the House, according to a source familiar with the discussion.

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Senators unveil sweeping bipartisan health care package | House lawmakers float Medicare pricing reforms | Dems offer bill to guarantee abortion access Bipartisan senators reveal sweeping health care package Collins offering bill to boost battery research as GOP pushes energy 'innovation' MORE (R-Tenn.), who had been leading the talks on a stabilization bill, declared the effort over Tuesday.

Republicans are increasingly pointing to their latest ObamaCare repeal bill as the only option to avoid the single-payer proposal championed by Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGillibrand seizes on abortion debate to jump-start campaign DNC boss says candidates to be involved in debate lottery CEO pay rising twice as fast as worker pay: AP MORE (I-Vt.) and 16 of his Democratic colleagues.

“Here’s the choice for America: socialism or federalism when it comes to your health care,” Graham told reporters after the lunch meeting.

Graham says the bill he’s co-sponsored would redistribute money now disproportionately being spent in four Democratic states — New York, California, Massachusetts and Maryland — to the rest of the country.

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFive takeaways from Barr's new powers in 'spying' probe Senate Democrats to House: Tamp down the impeachment talk Feinstein, Iranian foreign minister had dinner amid tensions: report MORE (D-Calif.) accused Graham and Cassidy of unfairly targeting her state.

“It’s appalling that Senator Graham and Senate Republicans would take federal funds that provide health care to Californians to give them to Republican-leaning states,” she said in a statement.

 
Nathaniel Weixel contributed.