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John McCain announces his opposition to Graham-Cassidy, likely dooming the bill

We’re not out of the woods yet, but this is an important, positive development:

Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) released the following statement today on health care reform:

“As I have repeatedly stressed, health care reform legislation ought to be the product of regular order in the Senate. Committees of jurisdiction should mark up legislation with input from all committee members, and send their bill to the floor for debate and amendment. That is the only way we might achieve bipartisan consensus on lasting reform, without which a policy that affects one-fifth of our economy and every single American family will be subject to reversal with every change of administration and congressional majority.

“I would consider supporting legislation similar to that offered by my friends Senators Graham and Cassidy were it the product of extensive hearings, debate and amendment. But that has not been the case. Instead, the specter of September 30th budget reconciliation deadline has hung over this entire process.

“We should not be content to pass health care legislation on a party-line basis, as Democrats did when they rammed [the Patient Protection Act] through Congress in 2009. If we do so, our success could be as short-lived as theirs when the political winds shift, as they regularly do. The issue is too important, and too many lives are at risk, for us to leave the American people guessing from one election to the next whether and how they will acquire health insurance. A bill of this impact requires a bipartisan approach.

“Senators Alexander and Murray have been negotiating in good faith to fix some of the problems with [the Patient Protection Act]. But I fear that the prospect of one last attempt at a strictly Republican bill has left the impression that their efforts cannot succeed. I hope they will resume their work should this last attempt at a partisan solution fail.

“I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried. Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will affect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it. Without a full CBO score, which won’t be available by the end of the month, we won’t have reliable answers to any of those questions.

“I take no pleasure in announcing my opposition. Far from it. The bill’s authors are my dear friends, and I think the world of them. I know they are acting consistently with their beliefs and sense of what is best for the country. So am I.

“I hope that in the months ahead, we can join with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to arrive at a compromise solution that is acceptable to most of us, and serves the interests of Americans as best we can.”

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is also vociferously opposed to Graham-Cassidy, although for different reasons. Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have yet to stake out a formal position, but they are considered to be likely no votes as well. Last time around, it was Murkowski and Collins who were alone in their opposition until McCain joined them.

This time, McCain has decided to announce his position in advance.

If Murkowski and Collins follow suit, Mitch McConnell will almost probably opt to pull the plug on Graham-Cassidy, and not even bring it up for a vote ahead of September 30th. There would be no point in doing so. It would only result in further embarrassment, putting an exclamation point on the Republican Party’s latest failed attempt to take away the healthcare of millions of people.

Collins is almost ready to commit to the same position:

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins all but said she would vote “no” on an Affordable Care Act repeal bill on Friday morning at an event in Portland.

“I’m leaning against the bill,” the Maine Republican said after listing a series of serious deficiencies in the Graham-Cassidy repeal bill.

“I’m just trying to do what I believe is the right thing for the people of Maine,” said Collins, appearing at the Holiday Inn By The Bay to give a speech about affordable housing.

Lisa Murkowski, meanwhile, has mostly kept quiet. Republicans have been trying to woo her by putting sweeteners into the bill to ease its destructive impact on Alaska. But Murkowski has remained noncommittal.

Washington State’s own United States Senator Patty Murray, the ranking Democratic member of the Senate HELP Committee, was quick to thank McCain and express her enthusiasm for resuming her work with Lamar Alexander.

“I agree with Senator McCain that the right way to get things done in the Senate— especially on an issue as important to families as their health care — is through regular order and working together to find common ground,” said Murray in a statement. “I’m still at the table ready to keep working, and I remain confident that we can reach a bipartisan agreement as soon as this latest partisan approach by Republican leaders is finally set aside.”