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Senate GOPs Pull Obamacare Repeal, Decide Tax Reform Up Next

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), joined by, from left, Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), speaks to reporters at the Capitol on Sept. 26, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — Senate GOP leaders acknowledged today that, with not enough support to bring the Graham-Cassidy bill to repeal and replace Obamacare to the floor, it’s time for them to turn again to tax reform.

“We’re coming back to this after taxes. We’re going to have time to explain our concept,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) vowed outside of a closed caucus policy luncheon on Capitol Hill. “We’ll have a better process and we’re going to take this show on the road.”

To Democrats, he suggested, “Let’s engage each other and see if we can find a bipartisan pathway forward that basically changes Obamacare, doesn’t prop it up.”

“With a process that gives more attention and time, we will repeal and replace Obamacare with a block grant called Graham-Cassidy-Heller- Johnson. The missing ingredient for us as Republicans has been we know what we don’t like. Obamacare is not working. We make that case effectively. But we’ve had a hard time articulating what we’re for until now,” Graham said.

“…I’ve never enjoyed anything more. I believe this is the most important thing I can ever do for the country, working with colleagues, is not to just repeal Obamacare, but to replace it with a system closer to where you live, controlled by people you can vote for. And we’re going to get there.”

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) admitted that “through events that are under our control and not under our control, we don’t have the votes.”

He called the vote postponement a “disappointment”: “To those who will celebrate the fact that we won’t have that vote just yet, think of those families of three making 401 percent of federal poverty level, those states, and those patients in those non- expansion states. As you celebrate, they are not celebrating. They are mourning.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that while “we haven’t given up on changing the American healthcare system,” and know “we are not going to be able to do that this week… it still lives ahead of us and we haven’t given up on that.”

“We do think it’s time to turn to our twin priority, reforming the tax code,” McConnell said.

“It took 18 months to pass Obamacare,” Graham said. “It’s going to take a while to repeal it. But here’s what I want you to know. There are 50 votes for the substance. There are not 50 votes for the process.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), praising the “Little Lobbyist” children with pre-existing conditions that pressed lawmakers to oppose Graham-Cassidy, declared that “Republicans must abandon Trumpcare and join us for constructive, bipartisan talks to improve and update the Affordable Care Act.”

“We Democrats believe this is not a day for celebration but a day to roll up our sleeves and work to make the healthcare system better than it is today,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at his own leadership presser. “…Now we hope that the Republicans don’t come back to this bill. It will meet with the same fate that it met with this time; ultimately because people didn’t like it.”

“We have seen people come to the Capitol this week and all summer who suffer with significant disabilities, and it is not easy for a lot of these people to get here, to be out in the sun, to wait in long lines, and frankly they shouldn’t have to,” he added. “They shouldn’t have to come to Capitol Hill and beg for health insurance coverage — not in the United States of America.”