The latest-and likely, for now, the last-Republican attempt to repeal major parts of the Affordable Care Act began on Wednesday with an epic, and revealing, exaggeration.
“Behind me is the only thing between you and single-payer health care, a small band of brothers looking for a sister,” Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told reporters as he, three other GOP senators, and one former senator unveiled a bill that would scrap Obamacare’s insurance mandates and convert the rest of the law into a block-grant program for the states.
Graham was referring to that other big health-care rollout occurring in the Capitol on Wednesday: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’s introduction of a “Medicare-for-all” bill that has picked up support from Democratic senators positioning themselves for possible presidential runs in 2020. The South Carolina Republican, himself a failed White House contender last year, embraced the Sanders plan as a point of contrast with his own, and he framed the consequences of failure in dire terms for his party.
“We need people onboard now to stop what I believe is inevitable if we fail,” Graham said.
This is what the final embers of the GOP’s repeal-and-replace effort has become-not so much a debate over the merits of the increasingly popular health-care law currently in place, but a competition with a liberal dream that remains years away from a viable shot at enactment. No matter the outcome of Graham’s Hail Mary for Obamacare repeal, Sanders’s single-payer bill is not inevitable, at least not anytime soon. Not with just 15 Democratic co-sponsors in the Senate, and not without Democratic majorities in Congress and a Democratic president in the White House.