Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who has often painted himself as a responsible Republican who will call out President Trump for his misdeeds, appealed to Trump’s nationalist base over the weekend, appearing on Breitbart News Radio to promote his bill that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The bill, which Graham has proposed with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), would repeal the individual and employer mandate as well as a number of the taxes established under the ACA. The plan would ultimately block grant health care to the states and governors would design health care systems within their own states.
Despite Graham’s rosy presentation, the bill would have many of the same effects as earlier attempts to repeal and replace would have, as states could raise premiums when and however they chose. The repeal of the mandates could also result in a death spiral, and states could lose $300 billion in federal health care funding.
Graham painted the plan as the antithesis of the single-payer health care bill unveiled by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) last week, which would, over the course of four years, expand Medicaid eligibility to all residents.
“This is Bernie Sanders’ worst nightmare,” Graham said on the Saturday radio show. “It’s either this or we’re going to Obamacare and Berniecare. Now, Berniecare is full-blown single-payer socialism. It is his dream and that’s where Democrats are going.”
Graham has often been one of the only Republican senators who will explicitly criticize Trump. After Trump failed to condone white nationalist marchers in Charlottesville, for example, Graham was one of only a few high-profile Republicans to explicitly call out the president.
Lindsey Graham attacks Trump in a statement for his "moral equivalency" pic.twitter.com/i57fxUnB3E
— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) August 16, 2017
But on Saturday, when the Breitbart radio host said “Soros organizers” were nervous about Graham’s bill, the senator quickly agreed.
“They’re going nuts. They’re going absolutely crazy,” Graham said. “That tells you something about this idea. If they weren’t freaked out, I’d be worried.”
Graham also effusively praised the president he has often pushed against, comparing Trump to the baseball great Mariano Rivera.
“Mariano Rivera is the best closer in the history of baseball,” Graham said. “Number 45 is coming into the ninth inning. Donald Trump wears 45. He’s the 45th president. He’s on the phone as I speak getting governors who are a little nervous about this, saying ‘We’re not going to let you fail, we’re going to give you the flexibility over time and we’re going to empower you unlike anything you’ve ever seen, if you’re afraid of the responsibility, get out of your job.’”
Graham’s bill is the latest attempt by Republicans in Congress to quietly repeal and replace the ACA, after Senate Republicans designed their first attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare during the Trump era entirely behind closed doors.
The most recent attempt to repeal Obamacare failed after Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) voted down the bill in a shocking late-night vote, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said it’s time to “move on.” But Trump has been banging the drum on Twitter for weeks, and health care experts and Congressional watchers have begun to talk about the increasing likelihood of Graham’s bill passing.
Republicans have been trying to repeal the ACA as part of reconciliation, which means they need only 50 votes to pass the bill. Reconciliation ends September 30, putting a hard deadline on Graham’s bill.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has said he will not vote for the bill, and Republicans also believe Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) will vote against the bill, meaning Republicans cannot afford to lose another vote.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) have both signaled that they would support the bill in the House in recent weeks, and Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway has said that Trump would sign the bill into law if it made it to his desk.
“We’ve been stumbling around trying to repeal and replace Obamacare. The McConnell approach was better than Obamacare but it wasn’t transformational,” Graham said Saturday. “So the goal is to get the money and the power out of Washington. This is not about repealing and replacing Obamacare. This is about stopping a march towards socialism.”