Bill Cassidy, Rick Santorum

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., second from right, accompanied by Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, right, testifies during a Senate Finance Committee hearing to consider the Graham-Cassidy healthcare proposal, on Capitol Hill, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) ORG XMIT: DCAH140

Andrew Harnik

For someone who spent his career working for a state institution and later serving in the Louisiana Legislature, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy has managed to retain an awful lot of faith in state government.

The central idea of Cassidy's now-dead attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is that money should be sent to the states, which he pitched as practically akin to giving power to the patients. He and co-sponsor Lindsey Graham of South Carolina hammered the idea during Monday night's town hall on CNN, which featured the two Republican authors of the bill as well as Democrat Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats.

Not that Cassidy did a great job of making his case.

He insisted that Washington is driven by bureaucratic "formulas" as opposed to individual needs, but state governments dole out benefits according to formulas as well.

He cast the idea of federal government as a bogeyman, but Sanders quickly pointed out that, while "it's easy to beat up on big, bad federal government," no private insurance is as popular as Medicare.

When the bill's sponsors argued that state officials wouldn't weaken protections for those with pre-existing conditions, the opposition noted how few states had enacted policies on the subject before Obamacare.

Cassidy also extolled the wisdom of state leaders to decide what's best for their constituents, and claimed the support of 15 governors — which, he skipped mentioning, leaves 35 in the skeptical camp.

"I trust governors," Cassidy said. "I think they actually respond to the people that elected them."

That queued up another easy retort, this time from Klobuchar, who invoked the wisdom of Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.

"Your own governor opposes this bill," she said.

Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.