The GOP moderates must vote no on Graham-Cassidy — it will hurt millions

The GOP moderates must vote no on Graham-Cassidy — it will hurt millions
© Getty

A handful of GOP Senators who voted against ObamaCare repeal last July are now considering voting for an abomination of a new bill, Graham-Cassidy, which is no better than what has come before. Once again, their votes can make the difference between passage or defeat of reckless legislation that hurts the poor, the sick, and the elderly.

In many ways, Graham-Cassidy is worse than this summer’s original legislation in its draconian cuts to Medicaid, reduced assistance to Americans who can’t afford health insurance, and jeopardizing of coverage for pre-existing conditions. Disguising cruel cuts as block grants does not change the fundamental impact on everyday Americans. As New York magazine rightly observes, Graham-Cassidy “shifts the burden of crafting a health-care system onto the states, and makes them do it with far less money.”

ADVERTISEMENT
From the standpoint of the actual mal-effects of repeal legislation, nothing has really changed since July. But in raw political terms, time is running out for Republicans to pass ObamaCare repeal with a simple majority vote. GOP Senators are nervous about leaving a major campaign promise unfulfilled. Never mind that it was a reckless promise and that less than 20 percent of the public supported repeal legislation earlier this year.

 

So the party is plunging recklessly ahead, with little apparent empathy for the millions of Americans that Graham-Cassidy will hurt. Astonishingly, most members seem unconcerned that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has announced that it will not be able to produce a comprehensive score on the bill for several weeks — well past the Sept. 30 deadline to pass with only 50 votes.

A fresh CBO analysis would no doubt show that Graham-Cassidy would result in tens of millions of Americans losing their health coverage over the next decade, with millions kicked off Medicaid rolls, as well. But it doesn’t look like we’ll have specific numbers until after the Graham-Cassidy vote.

The lack of new CBO data should deeply concern Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe 10 Senate seats most likely to flip What does Joe Biden believe about NASA, space exploration and commercial space? The Memo: Activists press Biden on VP choice MORE (R-Ariz.), who has pled with his party’s leadership to return to regular order (where there would be public hearings, a 60-vote threshold for passage of legislation, and fresh data from the CBO). This should be a slam dunk no vote for Sen. McCain on principle alone, and yet he won’t commit. One of the bill’s cosponsors, Sen. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyStakes high for Collins in coronavirus relief standoff Pass the Primary Care Enhancement Act Mental health crisis puts everyone on the front lines MORE (R-La.), says he’s “feeling good” about getting McCain’s vote.

If abiding by regular order were really important to Sen. McCain, he would have supported the work of the Senate Health Committee under Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderSenators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day McConnell gives two vulnerable senators a boost with vote on outdoor recreation bill Five unanswered questions on COVID-19 and the 2020 election MORE (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDemocratic leaders say Trump testing strategy is 'to deny the truth' about lack of supplies Senate votes to reauthorize intel programs with added legal protections The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Zeldin says Congress must help states; Fauci's warning; Dems unveil T bill MORE (D-Wash.) to craft a bipartisan fix to ObamaCare that aimed to stabilize insurance markets without punishing anyone. Unfortunately, GOP leadership has put that bipartisan effort on ice in order to leave only one healthcare bill for Republicans to vote on.

Voting no should also be a no-brainer for moderates Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former NIC Director Greg Treverton rips US response; WHO warns of 'immediate second peak' if countries reopen too quickly The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Cuomo rings the first opening bell since March The Democrats' out-party advantage in 2020 MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiRepublicans push for help for renewable energy, fossil fuel industries The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Mnuchin: More COVID-19 congressional action ahead Senators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day MORE (R-Alaska), as Graham-Cassidy allays none of their concerns about last summer’s legislation – and makes some of them worse. In fact, Sen. Murkowski’s home state of Alaska would lose money relative to other states in the bill’s block grant scheme ($225 million).”

Sen. Collins’s Maine would lose $115 million. (Interestingly enough, the legislation would punish states that did the right thing and expanded Medicaid under ObamaCare, while throwing more money at states that didn’t, regardless of the population’s needs.) Some states, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia are likely to receive at least 50 percent less federal health funding by 2026, at which point all of the block grants would be eliminated.

On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of governors from across the country (including the governor of Murkowski’s home state of Alaska) called on Senators to reject Graham-Cassidy in favor of “open, bipartisan approaches.”

Unfortunately, the political pressure to vote yes is intense. Not only are Republican Senators being relentlessly whipped; the White House has jumped back into the fray, with Vice President Pence calling members of Congress and governors. The media have focused mainly on political calculations, giving the potential victims of repeal short shrift.

The bill’s co-author, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) said Tuesday that the upcoming vote represents a choice between “socialism and federalism.” No, it represents a choice between common sense policy that helps people… and reckless, cynical legislation that advances a partisan agenda. I sincerely hope that Senate moderates can tell the difference, and vote accordingly.

Max Richtman is president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, a membership organization which promotes the financial security, health, and well being of current and future generations of maturing Americans.