What’s next for health care after McCain rejects GOP’s Graham-Cassidy plan?


JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator John McCain today dealt a serious blow to Republicans' latest effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

In a statement, the Arizona Republican rejected a reform proposal by fellow GOP Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy. The move leaves his party's leaders with diminishing hope of repealing President Obama's signature health care law.

We get the latest from our Lisa Desjardins.

So, Lisa, what reason did Senator McCain give?

LISA DESJARDINS: Senator McCain said, first, in good conscience, he could not support the bill because he said it's been rushed through. And he thinks now is the time and this issue is so large it requires bipartisanship.

Let me read one quote from what he wrote: "The issue is too important and too many things are at risk for us to leave the American people guessing from one election to the next whether and how they will acquire health insurance. A bill of this impact requires a bipartisan approach."

What he's saying here is leaving this up to states for another two years is just unacceptable. And, moreover, what he wants is a full debate through committee. He wants months and much more thought spent on this issue.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Where does this leave Republican efforts? They have tried again and again and again to get this done.

LISA DESJARDINS: We have so many metaphors, the zombie bill. It keeps coming to life.

I think this Republican plan is down on the mat if this was a boxing match, and the referee is counting, because John McCain was a vote they needed. They can only lose two Republicans. He's a hard no. Rand Paul is a hard no, his office confirmed to me today. He is still a hard no.

Susan Collins today said she is leaning no. We're waiting to hear from Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, who supported a bill that did not go as far — who voted no on a bill that wasn't this broad in scope. So it's very unlikely that this bill will get the support it needs in the next two days.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So these are the key Republicans. There have been some bipartisan efforts.

Some other Republicans, Democrats have been getting together to see if they could come up with something that could work across the aisle. Where does all that stand?

LISA DESJARDINS: That's right.

When last we were talking about this on the program, we had heard from Senator Alexander, who was leading that effort, that that was frozen, the bipartisan effort was frozen.

Well, now that might be changing. We heard from Senator — Iowa Senator Joni Ernst today, unexpected voice in this, Republican. She told her constituents at a town hall that she wants that bipartisan talk between Murray and Alexander to restart next week.

And she said — get this, Judy — today that she doesn't think Graham-Cassidy will come up for a vote and she doesn't think the votes are there. And so there is now a renewed attention perhaps to the bipartisan effort.

Democrats told me that they actually did — were ready to make some compromises in that effort. They may have to actually show those cards now if we get to that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And so it's Senator Patty Murray who has been leading the charge on that, Democrat of Washington, with Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.

LISA DESJARDINS: That's right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Lisa Desjardins watching it all, thank you.


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