Bill Cassidy

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., heads to the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 13, 2017, for a meeting on the revised Republican health care bill which has been under attack from within the party. Cassidy has expressed opposition to the bill as current written. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) ORG XMIT: DCSA114

J. Scott Applewhite

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy spent the past week making the rounds to talk about health care. He had multiple appearances on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN and Fox Business – appearing on some of the most-watched cable news programs including "Morning Joe," "The Lead with Jake Tapper," and "America's Newsroom."

As one of three physicians in the U.S. Senate, the Baton Rouge Republican has been a natural fit to discuss the ongoing – and, so far, unsuccessful – push by Republicans to repeal and replace Barack Obama's signature health care law.

But on Friday after the latest push, dubbed a "skinny repeal," was defeated in the early morning hours with the help of Republican U.S. Sens. John McCain, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, Cassidy was quiet.

His public Twitter account, which had been publicizing his various appearances all week, didn't send out a single missive. Cassidy's office didn't respond to multiple requests from The Advocate for an interview or further comment from Louisiana's senior senator.

After the "skinny repeal" vote, which Cassidy voted in favor of, he released a three-sentence quote, plugging an alternative plan that he has proposed with Republican U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, and Dean Heller, of Nevada.

“Families struggling under Obamacare need help. Doing nothing is not an option,” Cassidy said in the statement. “The Graham-Cassidy-Heller plan is now the way forward to return power to patients and states.”

After weeks of unsuccessful attempts to pass legislation through the U.S. Senate, Republicans are back at square one in the push to overhaul Barack Obama's signature health care law.

It's unclear how the chamber will move forward.

President Donald Trump, who campaigned on the repeal and replacement of Obamacare and has been a vocal advocate of repeal efforts, has offered oscillating takes on the repeated stumbles.

"Let Obamacare implode," Trump said at an event Friday, summing up the Senate fight as "you can't have everything."

Much attention has been thrust upon Cassidy, who voted for all three major repeal attempts – a Senate health care overhaul proposal, a repeal-only option and the skinny repeal – after publicly criticizing various plans as not doing enough to help families.

Louisiana's second U.S. Senator, John Kennedy, R-Madisonville, voted in favor of all three attempts, as well, but had said all along that he intended to and he was standing by a campaign promise to repeal Obamacare.

But critics have particularly questioned Cassidy's votes, after he coined the phrase "Kimmel Test" as a standard for health care legislation moving forward. Cassidy came up with the barometer after late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel revealed that his son was born with a severe heart disorder. In an emotional monologue, Kimmel said on his show that many families wouldn't be able to afford the costly care his son's condition required and noted that his son will have a lifetime "preexisting condition."

Cassidy, inspired by Kimmel, said he thought that the plan forward should guarantee health care to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay, and protect those with pre-existing conditions. Cassidy, who defeated Democrat Mary Landrieu to join the Senate in 2015, appeared on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" on ABC to talk about the "Kimmel Test."

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Jeanie Donovan, a health policy analyst for the Louisiana Budget Project, which advocates for low and moderate income families, said that Cassidy's votes came as a surprise.

"His votes for all three proposals were very disappointing and contradictory to the goals that he laid out for the process and the promises he made to many Louisianans," she said.

Cassidy defended his votes as a way to move the health care debate forward. He and Graham said that they hoped that their proposal, which removes the individual mandate and block grants funding for Medicaid and exchange incentives to states, would be the ultimate compromise.

"We think this is a way to fulfill the promise that President Trump made to the American people," Cassidy implored in an evening news conference alongside Graham and other Republicans ahead of the skinny repeal vote.

Graham said in a statement that he has pitched the Graham-Cassidy-Heller idea personally to Trump. "I had a great meeting with the President and know he remains fully committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare," Graham said in a statement Friday.

Critics of the Graham-Cassidy-Heller proposal say that it would drastically cut funding for Medicaid, forcing states to reduce coverage.

"It's as bad, if not worse, than some of the proposals we saw in the Senate this month," Donovan said.

Louisiana expanded its Medicaid program though the Affordable Care Act last year, providing health care coverage to more than 430,000 more people -- mostly the working poor.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who signed the Medicaid expansion into law, has repeatedly called on Congress to approach health care reform from a bipartisan perspective that would protect Medicaid expansion. He and a bipartisan slate of nine other governors sent a letter to senators calling for an opportunity to offer input on the proposal moving forward.

"The next best step is for senators and governors of both parties to come together to work to improve our health care system," the governors wrote.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.