GOP vows to press on with health care bill

U.S. Capitol Police begin to detain protesters laying on the ground in an attempt to maintain order in the hallways outside the Senate Finance Committee hearing on the last-ditch GOP push to overhaul the nation's health care system, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNN) — Two Republican senators leading the reeling, last ditch bid to replace Obamacare vowed to fight on Monday, even after another GOP defection dealt the potential killer blow to their bill.

“We are going to press on. It’s OK to vote. It’s OK to fall short, if you do, for an idea that you believe in,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham told CNN’s Jake Tapper and Dana Bash at town hall debate in Washington.
But Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders blasted the Republican approach, which must pass by an end-of-the-month deadline or go down to defeat as a “disaster,” and pushed for short-term fixes to Obamacare and his own long-term plan for a universal health care system.
The debate, also involving Democrat Amy Klobuchar and Graham’s partner in the health care drive, Bill Cassidy, came at a dramatic moment in the party’s latest effort to follow through on a promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, made at successive elections over the last seven years.
Hours before the debate, a third Republican Senator, Susan Collins of Maine, said she could not support the bill, warning it did not do enough to protect people with pre-existing conditions and cut Medicaid too sharply.
Collins was the third Republican to go on the record as opposing the bill. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell can only afford to lose two Republican votes to pass the legislation.
Both Republicans on stage argued that their plan would return money to the states in block grants to bring health care choices closer to patients and said that Obamacare had failed.
“Everybody on this stage thinks the current system is broken,” Cassidy said.
But the two GOP lawmakers did not offer any new initiatives to try to reverse the ebbing of support for the bill, the fate of which could be decided when Republicans meet in the Senate in Washington to discuss next steps on Tuesday.
The Democrats warned that the Republican bill would throw millions of people off health insurance rolls and would leave patients with pre-existing conditions that are guaranteed coverage under Obamacare high and dry.
Klobuchar said that the GOP plan “passes the buck to the states but doesn’t give them the bucks to cover people,” and urged her colleagues across the aisle to join in fixing the Affordable Care Act.
During the debate, President Donald Trump weighed in, taking a shot at Sen. John McCain who has come out against the Graham-Cassidy bill, with the President tweeting a video of the many times that the Arizona lawmaker had vowed to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“A few of the many clips of John McCain talking about Repealing & Replacing O’Care. My oh my has he changed-complete turn from years of talk!” Trump wrote.

In a moving moment, Graham rose to defend his friend, his eyes brimming with tears as he did so, reflecting the former Vietnam War hero’s recent diagnosis of brain cancer.

“John McCain can do whatever damn he wants to! He has earned that right,” Graham said, while Sanders said he couldn’t understand how Trump could attack McCain “one of the most decent people in the US Senate.”
In criticizing Republicans’ plans for health care, in a largely good humored debate, Sanders said that he knew that “nobody up here wants to see anybody die.”
“You tell me what happens when somebody who has cancer, somebody who has a serious heart condition, somebody who has a life-threatening disease suddenly loses the health insurance that they have,” he said.
Audience members at the debate raised questions about the positions of both sides, sometimes offering emotional testimony about their own conditions and experience.

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