Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) went on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday and tried to defend his position on the Graham-Cassidy bill, the latest GOP health bill before the Senate, saying he’s voting yes for patients who see high-cost coverage rather than the Republican donors who have a stake in repealing current health law.
Asked by host John Dickerson about admissions by Republican senators that the revived effort to repeal and replace Obamacare was spurred by political and fundraising concerns, Gardner disembled.
“This has nothing to do with politics. It has nothing to do with donors. It has everything to do with the people of this country who are suffering each and every day under a healthcare bill that’s failing to meet their needs, that’s bankrupting them.”
But the New York Times reported Friday that Gardner had told his caucus “donors are furious” and that Republicans needed to “kept our promise” to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in order to stabilize fundraising.
Gardner leads the National Republican Senate Committee, the campaign arm of the Senate Republicans. Fully 71 percent of Republican voters say it’s important that Congress prioritize repealing and replacing the ACA, according the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Republicans have been trying to excuse the rushed manner in which the Senate has been trying to pass the GOP health bill. Lawmakers will likely vote on the health bill by the end of this upcoming week; Republicans have until September 30, the last day they can pass their bill with just 50 votes, and Vice President Mike Pence casting a tie-breaking vote, under current budget rules. They’ll be voting on a bill, for which new legislative language will be released Monday, that will not have a comprehensive Congressional Budget score.
But their bill has been criticized by nearly the entire U.S. health care system. In an unprecedented joint letter issued Saturday, organizations representing physicians, hospitals, and the insurance industry asked for the Senate to reject the Graham-Cassidy bill. The bill has yet to be endorsed by any reputable health organization and has received reluctant support from Republican think tanks.
Asked about these widespread policy criticisms, Gardner told Dickerson that “the people who are opponents of the bill want this to be about politics and not policy.”
Other Republicans have candidly admitted that they’re supporting the Graham-Cassidy bill because it’ll be the last chance Republicans have to repeal the current health law. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said “Republicans campaigned on this so often that we have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign.” He added “that’s pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill.”
Truth be told, September 30 is a self-imposed deadline. Republicans can pass health legislation next year. Additionally, there was an opportunity for bipartisan health talks, but the Graham-Cassidy bill undercut those efforts.