GOP expresses hope for Obamacare repeal bill, hurdles remain

Top Senate Republicans say their last-ditch push to uproot former President Barack Obama’s health care law is gaining momentum. But they have less than two weeks to succeed and face a tough fight to win enough GOP support to reverse the summer’s self-inflicted defeat on the party’s high-priority issue.

“We feel pretty good about it,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., a leader of the effort along with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Monday.

“He’s the grave robber,” No. 3 Senate GOP leader John Thune of South Dakota said of Cassidy. “This thing was six feet under” but now has “a lot of very positive buzz,” Thune said.

With Democrats unanimously against the bill, Republicans commanding the Senate 52-48 would lose if just three GOP senators are opposed. That proved a bridge too far in July, when three attempts for passage of similar measures fell short and delivered an embarrassing defeat to President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

McConnell said he’d not bring another alternative to the Senate floor unless he knew he had the 50 votes needed. Vice President Mike Pence would cast the tie-breaking vote.

A victory would let Senate Republican leaders claim redemption on their “repeal and replace” effort. The House approved its version of the bill in May.

The 140-page bill would replace much of Obama’s law with block grants to states, giving them wide leeway on spending the money. It would let states set their own coverage requirements, allow insurers to boost prices on people with serious medical conditions, end Obama’s mandates that most Americans buy insurance and that companies offer coverage to workers, and cut and reshape Medicaid.

Democrats backed by doctors, hospitals, and patients’ groups mustered an all-out effort to finally smother the GOP drive, warning of millions losing coverage and others facing skimpier policies. Sixteen patients groups including the American Heart Association and the March of Dimes said they opposed it, as did the American College of Physicians and the Children’s Hospital Association.

Potentially complicating the GOP drive, the Congressional Budget Office said it won’t have crucial estimates on the bill’s impact on coverage ready for several weeks.

Special procedures protecting the GOP bill from filibusters — which take 60 votes to block — expire Sept. 30, and after that Democratic opposition would guarantee its defeat. Some wavering Republican senators could want the nonpartisan budget…

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