Graham Urges Full Health Care Repeal in 2018, Despite Tricky Math

Moving on from health care debate an ‘unpardonable sin,’ senator says

While GOP Senate leaders like Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, left, have shifted away from health care repeal as a priority, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., right, said it should remain at the top of the agenda. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As Senate Republican leadership signaled this week it will table efforts to dismantle the 2010 health care law in 2018 and instead focus on market stabilization, at least one GOP senator insists repealing and replacing it is still a top priority.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said it would be an “unpardonable sin” for Republicans to shift their focus from overhauling the health care system created by the so-called Obamacare legislation.

“Repealing the individual mandate takes away one of the pillars, but by no means does it repeal and replace Obamacare,” Graham told Breitbart News on Thursday.

Graham hopes to revive portions of the bill he introduced along with Louisiana GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy and others that gained interest among Senate Republicans in September, but could not feasibly be whipped to produce a majority of “yes” votes.

Watch: Nearly One Year Into His Presidency, How Congress Reacted to Trump

The bill would have decentralized health care and granted blocks of money from Obamacare back to the states, “putting money in the hands of elected officials and not Washington bureaucrats,” Graham said. That is still his goal for 2018, he added.

But Republican leadership indicated Thursday that other priorities remain ahead of Obamacare repeal after it failed this summer. Plus, Democratic Sen.-elect Doug Jones swiped a seat from Republicans in the Alabama special election last Tuesday, narrowing the GOP majority in the chamber to one.

Members say the repeal of the penalty for not having insurance, known as the “individual mandate,” that was included in the GOP tax plan removes a crucial aspect of the law, rendering it largely unworkable.

Now, they say a bipartisan fix will be necessary. And Republicans are focusing more on “reform” than “repeal,” at least in their rhetoric.  

“We ought to try to move to some sort of bipartisan solution,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas said. “Without the individual mandate, it’s hard to see how that is going to be the ultimate solution.”

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky pivoted away from repealing the 2010 health care law in a Thursday interview with NPR.

“Well we obviously were unable to completely repeal and replace with a 52-48 Senate,” McConnell said. “We’ll have to take a look at what that looks like with a 51-49 Senate. But I think we’ll probably move on to other issues.”

Yet Graham remains defiant.

By repealing the individual mandate, Republicans “for sure own health care now,” he said.

“I am more committed than ever to replacing Obamacare,” Graham said. “It would be a huge mistake for a Republican to believe that we’re done with Obamacare. It is still the law of the land, it is still crumbling, driving up costs for hard-working America. It’s still the path to single-payer health care unless it’s replaced.”

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.