Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana has told reporters that Republicans are two votes away from passing the last ditch Obamacare repeal and replace measure, accord He stated that the tally for the bill stands at 48 to 49 and that the cosponsors of the bill are talking to two or three senators whom they think are persuadable. The Republicans have until the end of September to pass the bill under reconciliation rules that require only 51 votes.

What the bill does

The bill, being advanced by Cassidy, as well as Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Dean Heller of Nevada and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, all Republicans, would take money currently used to finance Medicaid expansion, subsidies for individual health insurance plans, and tax credits for middle-class customers and will Block Grant them to the states.

The states can then use the extra money to use in whatever way they see fit to help residents obtain health care. The plan is attractive to conservatives because it adheres to a principle of federalism that devolves power of decision-making to the states. Even some moderates may find the idea attractive since it does not constitute a full repeal of Obamacare that many conservatives have demanded.

Rand Paul objects

One holdout seems to be Sen Rand Paul, R-Kentucky. He sent a Tweet on September 15 that stated, “Why continue putting out bills breaking our promise to repeal.? #GrahamCassidy redistributes, doesn't repeal. It is more Obamacare Lite.” The tweet does not mean that Paul will not vote for the bill.

He said much the same about the Repeal and Replace light effort that failed by one vote, thanks to the last-minute switch by Sen John McCain, R-Arizona but still voted for the bill on the theory that it was better than the current Obamacare, which is still in the process of collapsing if nothing is done.

The Senate Republican leadership has not thrown its support for the bill entirely either.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has required that the sponsors of the bill line up 50 senators in support of the bill before he even schedules a vote.

The funding for the block grants are not permanent and would have to be revisited in 2026. On the other hand, passage of the bill in the Senate and then the House would serve to calm cranky voters who are increasingly becoming irate at congressional Republicans for not addressing Obamacare.

Renewal time is coming around, and the prospect of ever higher premiums, deductibles, and copays represents an air of urgency for the government to fix the matter, if not once and for all, at least for the time being.