McCain says he opposes Graham-Cassidy bill as other Republicans weigh options

The Graham-Cassidy bill will be voted on next week.

September 22, 2017, 11:34 PM

— -- Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., announced in a statement on Friday that he cannot support the Graham-Cassidy health care bill. McCain’s opposition will likely sink the latest Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried," he said in a statement.

"Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will affect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it."

The Graham-Cassidy bill, considered to be Republican’s last-ditch attempt to follow through with an almost seven-year campaign promise to end Obamacare, was spearheaded by a close friend of McCain’s, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

As Senate Republicans leaned on McCain this week -- whose "no" vote contributed to the demise of July's Health Care Freedom Act -- Graham remained optimistic that McCain would eventually support the bill, telling an ABC affiliate on Thursday, “He won’t vote because of our friendship, I would never ask him. I don’t expect him to vote because we’re friends, I expect him to vote for what’s best for the country.”

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey came out in support of Graham-Cassidy on Monday, saying in a statement it “is the best path forward to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

Republicans hoped that Ducey’s support would help convince McCain to support the bill.

But in the end, it wasn’t enough. McCain was frustrated by Republicans' hasty efforts to pass the bill without it going through what he called “regular order.”

"Without a full CBO score, which won’t be available by the end of the month, we won’t have reliable answers to any of those questions,” said McCain.

The CBO, or Congressional Budget Office, could only offer a partial assessment of the Graham-Cassidy bill's effect on the federal deficit as well as how many people it would cover.

"I take no pleasure in announcing my opposition. Far from it. The bill’s authors are my dear friends, and I think the world of them. I know they are acting consistently with their beliefs and sense of what is best for the country. So am I.

“I hope that in the months ahead, we can join with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to arrive at a compromise solution that is acceptable to most of us, and serves the interests of Americans as best we can.”

Where other Republicans stand on the bill

Republicans have a deadline of Sept. 30 to pass Graham-Cassidy under parliamentarian rules of reconciliation, allowing them to pass a bill with a simple majority of 51 votes. This has left little wiggle room for Republicans to lose any votes -- with three "no" votes, the bill cannot pass.

In addition to McCain, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. is the only other GOP senator to confirm his opposition. Paul said he planned to vote "no," calling the bill “Obamacare lite" and arguing for legislation that would constitute a more complete repeal.

Two other Republicans have signaled that they are undecided on the Graham-Cassidy: Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Collins’ spokesperson said in a statement that she is “leaning no" and the senator said at an event in Maine Friday that she was "reading the fine print."

"The premiums would be so high they would be unaffordable," said Collins, adding, "I'm just trying to do the right thing for the people of Maine."

Murkowski, who joined Collins in opposition on three related votes in July, remains undecided her office told ABC News on Friday.

"Sen. Murkowski is still focused on how the bill will impact Alaska, specifically," a spokesperson said. "She's continuing to gather data and is looking at the details of the bill to determine what's best for her state."

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