For months, Mr. McCain has lamented a Senate legislative process that avoided hearings or formal bill-drafting procedures and excluded Democrats. On Friday, he said those tactics were intolerable.
“We should not be content to pass health care legislation on a party-line basis, as Democrats did when they rammed Obamacare through Congress in 2009,’’ Mr. McCain said. “If we do so, our success could be as short-lived as theirs when the political winds shift, as they regularly do.’’
A bill of this magnitude “requires a bipartisan approach,’’ Mr. McCain added.
Those concerns were compounded by the decision of Republican leaders to press forward with a vote next week before the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office could complete a full analysis of the Graham-Cassidy legislation. The budget office is expected to estimate the cost of the bill early in the week, but it indicated that it would not be able to complete an analysis of the bill’s effects on health insurance coverage or premiums by Sept. 30.
That date is critical because Republicans, who hold 52 seats in the Senate, have until the end of this month to make use of special budget rules that would allow them to pass a repeal bill in the Senate with only a simple majority, rather than 60 votes. If Republicans could get 50 votes, Vice President Mike Pence would break the tie in their favor.
“Of course, I’m disappointed,” Mr. Cassidy said in an interview, “but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop working for those folks who can’t afford their premiums. We are still working. We are still hoping.”
Mr. Graham, mindful of their longstanding relationship, was gracious. “My friendship with John McCain is not based on how he votes,” Mr. Graham said, “but respect for how he’s lived his life and the person he is.”
Mr. Pence was not giving up. “President Trump and I are undeterred,” he said at a speech in Indiana.
A spokeswoman for the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, declined to comment on whether he would press forward with a vote.
Democrats have vowed that if the repeal…