McCain backs Graham-Cassidy ObamaCare repeal effort

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Hill's Morning Report — Recession fears climb and markets dive — now what? Trump makes rare trip to Clinton state, hoping to win back New Hampshire Graham promises ObamaCare repeal if Trump, Republicans win in 2020 MORE (R-Ariz.) said Wednesday that he supports a newer version of an ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill, throwing some support behind the last-ditch effort. 

McCain said he backs a bill from Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham warns Trump on Taliban deal in Afghanistan: Learn from 'Obama's mistakes' Appropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid Trump meets with national security team on Afghanistan peace plan MORE (R-S.C.) and Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyI'm not a Nazi, I'm just a dude: What it's like to be the other Steve King Washington takes historic step forward on paid parental leave The 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal MORE (R-La.) that would convert ObamaCare spending into block grants for states. 

Asked if he supported it, McCain told reporters, "Yes. You think I wouldn't be?"

Graham is one of McCain's closest friends. 

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McCain was one of three crucial Republican votes that killed the GOP repeal effort in July. 

He at the time called repeatedly for the Senate to return to "regular order," meaning a bill would go through a committee first. 

"If it's not through regular order then it's a mistake, but it doesn't mean I wouldn't vote for it," McCain said when asked about his previous statements. 

In a statement later in the day on Wednesday, McCain took a step back from his earlier comments, saying he still needed to see the final bill and that committee hearings are in fact necessary.   

"As I have said all along, any effort to replace Obamacare must be done through the regular order of committee hearings, open debate and amendments from both sides of the aisle," McCain said in a statement.

The measure faces long odds even with McCain's comments. The White House is pushing for it, but Senate GOP leadership has so far not expressed interest publicly. 

Republicans face a tight deadline of Sept. 30, when the fast-track process known as reconciliation needed to pass a repeal bill without Democratic votes expires. 

Asked if he thinks the bill has legs before Sept. 30, McCain said, "I do."

"I think he's getting a number of governors who are supportive of his approach to weigh in," McCain said of Graham.

Importantly McCain said that his home state's governor, Doug Ducey (R), supports the bill. McCain's office later clarified that Ducey has expressed support for the concept of the bill but has not weighed in yet. 

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said Wednesday on Fox News that President Trump would sign the Graham-Cassidy bill. 

Democrats argue the block grant approach in the bill would lead to harmful cuts, including to Medicaid.  

They point to a study from the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that found that the bill would result in a 34 percent cut in spending compared to ObamaCare over 10 years.