After dramatic hearing, Graham-Cassidy health care bill seems dead

JUDY WOODRUFF: In all the back and forth over how to repeal the Affordable Care Act, there was a first on Capitol Hill today, the first hearing on a health care replacement plan this year.

But passage of this latest Republican push, the Graham-Cassidy bill, is far from certain, even as Senate leaders say they plan to hold a vote in coming days.

Lisa Desjardins is here to help bring us up to speed.

Lisa, the Republicans have been doing all sorts of thing to try to win more votes, but, as of right now, and just in the last hour, it's proving it's hard.

LISA DESJARDINS: That's right. We have some news.

I think, for all intents and purposes, this version of Graham-Cassidy and basically its outline, the shape of this bill, is dead.

Senator Susan Collins came out with a statement saying that she is now a hard no. That makes her the third no, after Rand Paul and John McCain. Three Republicans no's means a bill doesn't go forward in the Senate.

Now Republicans have some decisions to make. They have got to figure out, do they take this vote anyway, so make people walk the plank and get them on the record on this, or do they try to come up with some other magical, another last-minute, last-ditch formula?

Judy, they have until 11:59 Saturday night to use the reconciliation process this year and be able to pass something with 50 votes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the clock is ticking.

LISA DESJARDINS: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You and I were just talking about the statement that Senator Collins has put out.

And I was going to ask you, is there any glimmer of hope anywhere? But this is a pretty devastating indictment of the Republican bill.

LISA DESJARDINS: Oh, it's a lengthy — it's a lengthy and certainly well-thought-out statement from her, in which she lists three concerns.

One are the cuts to Medicaid in this bill. Another are the cuts, the effects for people with preexisting conditions. And then the third is what it would mean for coverage, the loss of coverage, the number of people who may not get coverage under this bill.

And also tonight, in this flurry of news, Judy, we have some news from the Congressional Budget Office that looked at a previous version, two days' old now, of the Graham-Cassidy bill. And they said they don't have enough time, but they did believe it would mean millions fewer Americans with coverage.

CBO may actually get a night off tonight, as Republicans try to figure out what to do next.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, just quickly, you're saying this is dead, or appears to be dead…

LISA DESJARDINS: That's right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: … unless somebody changes their mind — someone who's declared changes their mind.

LISA DESJARDINS: Right.

The most likely path, people think, is Rand Paul, finding something that maybe appeals to him. But, to be honest, to have something that appeals to Rand Paul and, say, Lisa Murkowski seems unlikely. And you would have to dramatically change the bill.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, let's talk quickly about that hearing today.

You were saying it is the first we have seen this year. Dramatic.

LISA DESJARDINS: Yes, unbelievable. I don't think I have experienced anything like this.

First of all, protesters, dozens of them. Let's play some sound from what it was like.

(CROSSTALK)

(SHOUTING)

MAN: OK, the committee is in recess.

LISA DESJARDINS: So, there, they were saying, "No cuts to Medicaid, save our liberty."

And you heard they had to recess that hearing for 20 minutes, Judy, while they took all of those protesters outside.

Now, the hearing did get back under way. And that's when we did get into some of the core debate. This was the first hearing this year that the Senate has had on a health care bill. So it's significant.

You heard from the Republicans more power to states. And then you heard from Democrats more power for protesters and individuals.

SEN. MARK WARNER, D-Va.: Literally, hundreds of people were sitting outside this hearing room wanting to have their voices here.

If this is such a great idea, let's take the time to analyze it, review it, and put it through all the same hoops that Obamacare went through. Chances are, there might be Democratic amendments that would actually be accepted.

But, no, we're going through this trumped-up process to try to get a political scalp before September 30.

SEN. TIM SCOTT, R-S.C.: They miss the obvious point that, for so many people today, the ACA isn't an option.

One thing is clear. Residents and citizens throughout the entire country say that their local and state politicians have their confidence more than their federal politicians. This seems like a no-brainer to give the money to the states.

LISA DESJARDINS: There was real substance there, Judy.

But, of course, this is the substance just five days before they have got this deadline, when they have had, of course, many months, this Congress, to be talking about this.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Many months, and just a few days to go, and, right now, they don't have the votes.

LISA DESJARDINS: Right. Oh, definitely do not.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Lisa Desjardins, we thank you.

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