Sen. Lindsey Graham vowed Monday to “press on” in a bid to pass an apparently doomed Obamacare replacement bill he’s sponsoring, calling the proposal a “damn good idea.”
“We are going to press on. It’s OK to vote. It’s OK to fall short, if you do, for an idea that you believe in,” Graham told CNN’s Jake Tapper and Dana Bash at town hall debate in Washington.
But Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders blasted the Republican approach, which must pass by an end-of-the-month deadline or go down to defeat as a “disaster,” and pushed his own long-term plan for a universal health care system.
Graham and fellow Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy are facing off against Sanders and Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar in the debate, with their measure appearing all-but-doomed after a third Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, came out against it.
The debate went ahead with the Republican effort on life support. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell can only afford to lose two Republican votes to pass the legislation.
Sanders’ Democratic colleague Klobuchar warned that the GOP plan “passes the buck to the states but doesn’t give them the bucks to cover people,” and urged her colleagues across the aisle to join in fixing the Affordable Care Act.
During the debate, President Donald Trump weighed in, taking a shot at Sen. John McCain who has come out against the Graham-Cassidy bill, with the President tweeting a video of the many times that the Arizona lawmaker had vowed to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“A few of the many clips of John McCain talking about Repealing & Replacing O’Care. My oh my has he changed-complete turn from years of talk!” Trump wrote.
In a moving moment, Graham rose to defend his friend, his eyes brimming with tears as he did so, reflecting the former Vietnam War hero’s recent diagnosis of brain cancer.
“John McCain can do whatever damn he wants to! He has earned that right,” Graham said, while Sanders said he couldn’t understand how Trump could attack McCain “one of the most decent people in the US Senate.”
In criticizing Republicans’ plans for health care, Sanders said that he knew that “nobody up here wants to see anybody die.”
“You tell me what happens when somebody who has cancer, somebody who has a serious heart condition, somebody who has a life-threatening disease suddenly loses the health insurance that they have,” he said.
The Democrats argued that the Republican plan would throw millions of people off of health insurance rolls.