Republicans make last-minute pitch for Obamacare repeal plan

PHOTO: Sen. Bill Cassidy speaks as Sen. Dean Heller, Sen. Ron Johnson and Sen. Lindsey Graham listen during a news conference on healthcare, Sept. 13, 2017, in Washington.PlayAlex Wong/Getty Images
WATCH Senate minority leader: GOP health care plan is 'rotten to the core'

It's a day of dueling health care plans on Capitol Hill. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who's leading the Republicans' last-minute effort to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, came out swinging against Sen. Bernie Sanders' proposal for what he calls "Medicare for all."

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"If you want a single health payer system, this is your worst nightmare," Graham said. "Bernie, this ends your dream of a single-payer health care system for America."

Graham, R-S.C., was joined by Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.; Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.; Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.; and former Sen. Rick Santorum.

The Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson plan proposes to send federal money spent on the Affordable Care Act to states in the form of block grants — an idea Santorum pitched to Graham while they were in a barbershop. Their plan would eliminate the medical device tax, the employer mandate and the individual mandate.

The clock is ticking for Congress to pass any repeal or replacement bill in the Senate, which requires a minimum of just 50 votes under the process known as reconciliation. After Sept. 30, legislation will need at least 60 senators to sign on.

So far, Graham's plan has been met by lukewarm reactions from conservatives who seem exhausted by repeal and replace efforts and those who don't think its proposed changes go far enough.

Some GOP senators have already seemed to move on, including the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Lamar Alexander, who is working on a bipartisan plan for the individual insurance market. Today Heritage Action for America released a statement saying that from what it has seen of the plan, the Graham bill "would make some improvements over the status quo, but it would not actually deliver on the Republicans' seven-year campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare."

"For those Republicans who say this isn't quite good enough, it doesn't do enough of a repeal, this is our last shot," Johnson said. "Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson is a vast improvement."

Kellyanne Conway said on Fox News last week that President Donald Trump would be willing to sign the bill. Today, Graham made a direct plea to Trump for his support.

"Mr. President, help us," said Graham. "Pick up the phone. Call some governors ... Mr. President, help us, because we're trying to help you."

After the press conference, Trump released a statement that praised the effort, he but stopped short of offering support.

"I applaud the Senate for continuing to work toward a solution to relieve the disastrous Obamacare burden on the American people. My administration has consistently worked to enact legislation that repeals and replaces Obamacare and that can pass the Senate and make it to my desk," he said. "As I have continued to say, inaction is not an option, and I sincerely hope that Sens. Graham and Cassidy have found a way to address the Obamacare crisis."