TV host emerges as unlikely leader in fight to save Obamacare

Republicans are pushing again to tear up Obama’s health plan – but the man once regarded as a lightweight on late-night is fast becoming a powerful GOP foe

Kimmel on Wednesday accused Republican senator Bill Cassidy of having ‘lied to my face’ about his position on healthcare. Photograph: Randy Holmes/Getty Images

For a second night in a row, the late-night talkshow host Jimmy Kimmel dedicated his opening monologue to excoriating a US senator who represents one half of a renewed push to tear up the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Kimmel is rapidly emerging as the unlikely leader of the counter-crusade to save the ACA, widely known as Obamacare, from Republican efforts to repeal and replace the health insurance system.

After Kimmel accused Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana, of having “lied to my face” about his position on healthcare, Cassidy, a medical doctor who worked in a public hospital with low-income and uninsured patients, went public to say Kimmel did not understand the bill.

But Kimmel, joking that he did not want to turn their war of words into a“Kanye-and-Taylor-Swift-type situation”, refused to back down.

“Which part don’t I understand?” Kimmel countered, in a 10-minute rebuttal. “The part where you cut $243bn dollars from federal healthcare assistance? Am I not understanding the part where states would let insurance companies price you out of coverage for having pre-existing conditions?

“Could it be, Senator Cassidy, that the problem is that I do understand and you got caught with your G-O-Penis out? Is that possible?”

Cassidy, and his co-author, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, are rallying Republican senators around a last-gasp effort to repeal the ACA and replace it with legislation that largely shifts money away from states that opted to expand Medicaid coverage to states where Republican governors refused to do so.

Republican leaders in the Senate have announced that they will push for a vote early next week, although full details and implications of the bill are not clear.

Unlike many of his fellow late-night hosts, including Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee and Trevor Noah, who feast off the chaos and controversy in a Trump-era Washington, Kimmel had been considered less likely to dive into the political fray.

But as host of the Academy Awards in February, Kimmel trained a blistering opening monologue on Trump.

And in May, he revealed in a tearful speech that his son, Billy, had been born with a heart…

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