Republicans in the U.S. Senate are quietly inching closer to repealing and replacing Obamacare. The last-ditch effort comes after failed attempts earlier this summer. According to reports, the latest version already has 49 GOP votes and only needs one more with the help of Vice President Mike Pence to pass. North Dakota’s Senator John Hoeven is expected to be a “yes” on the vote. Recall earlier Hoeven told North Dakota he would vote against bills that dramatically cut Medicaid. He later voted for a bill that did seemingly going against his word.
Known as “Graham-Cassidy” because of its drafters, Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, the amendment will again skirt traditional Senate process and procedure. There are no scheduled hearings and because this is an amendment that replaces a bill, no new debate is required. Leadership can easily make the case the required 20-hours of debate were already used during previous drafts of the bill. In essence, the Graham-Cassidy amendment is a “hog-house” that replaces the entirety of the bill with an amendment that really creates a new draft. The method is commonly used in the North Dakota Legislature when they want to avoid public hearings or sneak something by the general public.
GOP Senators have basically admitted they’re trying to keep this push a secret. As I type this, Senate leadership is twisting arms trying to get one more vote before the budget deadline of Sept. 30th. After Sept. 30th, any repeal and replace would require 60 votes. That means Republicans have twelve days to ram this through. The Senate is only scheduled to be in session for three days this week and has asked the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to drop everything and get them a score on this amendment next week. CBO scores typically would have the price tag along with the number of insured impacted by the proposed bill. However, reports from Washington suggest the GOP only wants the dollar amount and not the number of people covered. If true, it would appear they don’t want the public to know how many people would lose health care coverage under their rushed changes.
The GOP push to completely gut the current law, throw people off of coverage all while making it more expensive isn’t going away. They’re continuing to find ways around the traditional process to get a political win. As they continue to persist, so to should the general public to make sure changes don’t kick millions off coverage and cost consumers thousands of more in premiums and out-of-pocket costs.