Graham to Trump: Focus on Obamacare repeal, not DACA


“We’ve got six months to deal with the DREAM Act kids. You’ve got 17 days to repeal and replace Obamacare,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s attention should be on repealing and replacing Obamacare, not forging a deal with Democrats on immigration and border security, Sen. Lindsey Graham said Thursday morning.

Trump’s focus should be on the former, Graham (R-S.C.) said, because time is quickly running out for Republicans to make good on their long-held pledge to undo former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare legislation. Because of the Senate’s parliamentary rules regarding reconciliation, the procedure by which budget legislation passes through the chamber, GOP senators have only until the end of the month to pass repeal-and-replace legislation with a simple majority of 51 votes.

Story Continued Below

After September, any repeal and replace bill would be forced to clear the Senate’s typical 60-vote threshold, an all but impossible ask given Democrats’ unity in opposing any repeal of Obamacare.

“For strong border security, I would be willing to let the DREAM Act kids have legal status. They have no place to go other than America. So border security for DACA kids, legal status makes plenty of sense. I applaud the president wanting to try to fix this problem,” Graham said Thursday on Fox News, outlining the framework of a deal reportedly discussed Wednesday night between Trump and Democratic leaders in Congress. “But here’s what I tell the president. We’ve got six months to deal with the DREAM Act kids. You’ve got 17 days to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

By signing up you agree to receive email newsletters or alerts from POLITICO. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Graham, along with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), has proposed a last-ditch repeal-and-replace bill that would block grant all of the money spent by the federal government on Obamacare back to the states. But that legislation has received a mixed response from Senate Republicans and it is unclear whether or not GOP leadership intends to push the bill over the remaining days in September.

Trump, for his part, has said he supports the Graham-Cassidy legislation, although much of the White House’s messaging in recent weeks has focused on the president’s goal of rewriting the U.S. tax code.

Graham, in his Fox News interview, compared his plan with the single-payer healthcare system proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), suggesting that Americans would much prefer his plan to Sanders’ Medicare for All legislation. The South Carolina senator called on the leaders of his party to rededicate themselves to reforming the nation’s healthcare system and pledged to “fight like a tiger to the bitter end to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

“President Trump needs to be as committed to repealing Obamacare as President Obama was in passing it. Mitch McConnell needs to be as committed to repealing Obamacare as Harry Reid was to passing Obamacare,” Graham said. “I know there’s a lot of fight left in the Republican party. Is there any fight left in Republicans on Capitol Hill? I believe there is and I’m going to do everything I can to have a vote on repealing and replacing Obamacare.”

Missing out on the latest scoops? Sign up for POLITICO Playbook and get the latest news, every morning – in your inbox.