For reasons that are clear only to him, President Donald Trump wants Congress to take one more stab at overturning the Affordable Care Act. This despite the fact that many Republicans are gun-shy about revisiting the losing fight, and the Democrats who now control the House of Representatives would never go along.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is reportedly egging the president on. Graham is advocating taking another pass at what was known as “Graham-Cassidy,” a proposal he co-authored that would send block grants to the states, allow them to determine whether to retain or weaken some key protections now in the federal law, and give states a per capita amount to spend on Medicaid rather than cover everyone who meets qualifications. On the key question of pre-existing conditions, the measure would permit states to weaken coverage by allowing insurers to not cover costs associated with some conditions, according to a Washington Post analysis.
The “Cassidy” in the bill’s nickname, of course, is Louisiana’s U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, who has so far been pretty quiet on the subject.
If he’s smart, he’ll stay that way. In fact, if Trump and Graham dial him up, Cassidy really should just let the calls go to voice mail.
The 2017 congressional fight ended when Graham’s dear, ailing friend John McCain issued his career-capping thumbs-down, and it did not go well for Cassidy. A physician who practiced in Louisiana’s old Charity Hospital system, the senator set himself up as a Republican defender of the some of the bill’s most popular protections, but then championed legislation that could well have weakened them. And it all played out on national television, courtesy of Cassidy’s decision to invoke the late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel’s name in his campaign.
U.S. Sen. John McCain, 81 years old, fighting cancer and nearing the end of a storied three-decade career in the upper chamber, is in legacy mode.
After Kimmel’s newborn son had open heart surgery, Kimmel went on his show to tearfully plea that the government make sure families, no matter their means, don’t have to worry about lifetime limits on coverage and full benefits for people with pre-existing conditions. Obamacare put those protections into law, and as he joined the fight to repeal and replace, Cassidy insisted that any replacement would pass the "Jimmy Kimmel test."
But it all went south when Cassidy proposed allowing states to decide on many of their own rules, which, Kimmel angrily argued, did not meet his own version of the “Jimmy Kimmel test.” (McCain’s famous thumbs-down, which infuriated Trump, was not on Cassidy-Graham but on a so-called skinny repeal).
While a number of Republican state-level officials, including Attorney General Jeff Landry, are now pushing a Trump-supported lawsuit to invalidate the law, there’s been little action in Congress on Obamacare since the GOP repealed penalties last year for those who don’t carry insurance.
WASHINGTON — As the Cassidy-Graham health care proposal received its first public vetting in a U.S. Senate committee Monday afternoon, Republi…
That’s freed up bandwidth, and Cassidy has shifted his focus to legislation that could win bipartisan support and actually solve some problems.
He’s lined up Democratic co-sponsors on an effort to protect patients from huge, surprise medical bills. He’s actively involved in conversations over the future of the National Flood Insurance Program, and in trying to finally solve the infuriating duplication of benefits logjam for Louisianans who’ve been denied aid because they took out SBA loans. He’s one of several senators working on proposals to create paid parental leave policies and will speak on the subject at the American Enterprise Institute later this week. The general idea of creating such policies has been gaining support across the aisle, although big divisions remain over how to pay for it and whether to extend the benefits to those caring for other family members.
These are things Cassidy can accomplish in the Senate, and the more technocratic side of him seems to really want to.
If Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, a bunch of other state-level Republicans — and as of this week, the Trump administration — get thei…
Cassidy’s up for reelection next year, and his job is probably safe, given that Louisiana skews strongly Republican in national races, and no credible challenger has surfaced. Still, he’s got a choice to make about how he wants to spend the rest of his first term.
One path could lead to some real progress, and also please voters of all political stripes.
The other, the path that Trump and Graham are forging? That way lies nothing but another political morass.