As clock ticks, Republicans try to move ahead on Obamacare repeal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration and top U.S. Senate Republicans pushed on Tuesday for action on a bill to dismantle Obamacare, but time was running out and they were still hunting for the votes needed to pass their latest attempt to gut the 2010 healthcare law.

Vice President Mike Pence lunched with Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill to urge them to approve the legislation introduced last week by Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy. Pence said President Donald Trump backs the bill.

“Now is the time. We have 12 days” to pass it, Pence said before the lunch.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who fell a single vote short of securing passage of another healthcare overhaul bill in July, said the Graham-Cassidy legislation “has a great deal of support,” but would not commit to bringing it to the Senate floor for consideration.

After Sept. 30, the last day of the fiscal year, procedural rules will make it much more difficult for Republicans. The bill after Oct. 1 would need 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate to be brought up for consideration, rather than a simple majority until the end of the month.

Despite controlling both chambers of Congress and the White House, Republicans this year have failed to make good on their seven-year effort to dismantle a law that was the top legislative achievement of Trump’s Democratic predecessor Barack Obama.

Having suffered the humiliating failure in July, Republican congressional leaders only want to hold a vote on legislation they know can pass.

“At the end of the day, I really believe we’re going to get 50 Republican votes,” Graham told reporters, but he would not say how many committed votes he has now in a Senate that his party controls 52-48.

Dismantling the Affordable Care Act, known informally as Obamacare, was a central campaign promise last year by Trump. Republicans call that law a government overreach into the healthcare system. Democrats point out that it has expanded health insurance coverage to some 20 million more people.

The new bill could give Republicans one last shot this year on healthcare.

It proposes to replace Obamacare with a system giving states money in block grants to run their own healthcare programs. It would allow states to opt out of certain Obamacare protections for consumers and waive regulations requiring insurers to cover certain health benefits. It also would end the Obamacare expansion of the Medicaid insurance program for the poor…

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