In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Hours before the sole hearing on the GOP’s last-ditch bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, hundreds of activists from around the country set up camp in the halls of the Senate office building, waiting to grab a seat in the room and register their opposition to the legislation.

Under the watch of several dozen armed Capitol Police officers, the activists put on Grim Reaper costumes, donned bright red shirts blaring “I AM A PRE-EXISTING CONDITION,” and periodically struck up chants of “Kill the bill.” Many planned to be arrested protesting the bill.

“It’s the most horrible legislation in our lifetimes,” New York City retiree Judy Cutler told TPM. “It will kill people, literally. And it will cost our family so much I don’t think we can afford our care.”

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Amid crumbling support for the Senate GOP’s last-ditch bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the authors of the Graham-Cassidy repeal bill dropped revised text late Sunday night in an attempt to woo dissenting Republicans back into the fold.

The changes attempt to offer something for everyone: more insurance deregulation and the weakening of protections for people with pre-existing conditions for far-right skeptics like Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), re-jiggered state numbers to soothe the fears of moderates Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and an extra sweetener for the home state of bill author Bill Cassidy (R-LA).

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As Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) indicated on Sunday that they could vote against Senate Republicans’ latest Obamacare repeal bill, the legislation’s authors prepared to release changes to the bill in an apparent attempt to win over key senators.

Collins, who has been publicly wary of the bill, has yet to come out firmly against the Graham-Cassidy bill. However, she made clear on Sunday that there’s a very small chance she could support the legislation.

“It’s very difficult for me to envision a scenario where I would end up voting for this bill,” Collins said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding that she will wait for the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the bill before making a final decision.

During an appearance at the Texas Tribune Festival, Cruz said that Republican senators had yet to win his support for the bill, and that Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) was also apprehensive about the legislation.

“Right now they don’t have my vote, and I don’t think they have Mike Lee’s either,” Cruz said Sunday.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) have already come out firmly against the bill, so Republican leaders cannot afford to lose another member of their caucus.

With the bill on its last legs, its authors are preparing to release a new draft of the bill on Monday in a final attempt to win over the remaining holdouts. The bill would target Maine and Alaska, the home states of Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), another senator likely to oppose the bill, according to reports from Politico and the Washington Post.

The revised legislation provides more funding to both Maine and Alaska compared to previous versions of the bill, according to a summary obtained by the Washington Post. The bill would also send more funds to Arizona and Kentucky, the home states of McCain and Paul, according to a draft of the bill obtained by Politico.

Before revisions to the bill were leaked to the press Sunday night, President Donald Trump took a break from tweeting about the NFL to push GOP senators to back the legislation.

 

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A lot of House Republicans probably heaved a sigh of relief when they learned that a Friday defection by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) may have saved them from another round of Obamacare votes.

“If you’re in a congressional swing district, this was not a vote you were looking forward to taking,” said Ken Spain, a GOP strategist and former top staffer at the National Republican Congressional Committee. “McCain did Republicans a favor — this was going to be a very difficult vote that was going to have significant political consequences in 2018.”

That’s especially true for the House Republicans in states that expanded Medicaid, since the Senate bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act would be particularly devastating to those states, and since a number of those lawmakers are already facing brutal reelection fights.

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President Donald Trump lashed out at Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on Saturday for his public takedown of the Graham-Cassidy proposal—the Senate GOP’s latest Obamacare repeal effort under consideration.

“John McCain never had any intention of voting for this Bill, which his Governor loves,” Trump said in the first of a trio of tweets. “He campaigned on Repeal & Replace. Let Arizona down!”

The President also accused McCain of taking the “sad” step of aligning himself with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) while abandoning his closest ally in the Senate, proposal co-sponsor Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

The 81-year-old senator issued a lengthy statement on Friday saying he “could not in good conscience” vote for the measure out of concerns over the rushed process with which it was being rammed through. The Senate GOP has a deadline of Sept. 30 to pass an Obamacare repeal measure using the particular legislative vehicle they adapted to avoid a Democratic filibuster. In the name of expediency, Senate Republicans have pushed Graham-Cassidy forward without even getting a full score of its impact from the Congressional Budget Office.

“I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried,” McCain said in his statement. “Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will effect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it.”

His full-throated opposition weakens the bill’s chances of passing, as Senate Republicans can only lose two Republican votes and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has already signaled he’s against it. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has also hinted that she would vote against the measure if it were brought to the floor.

As with previous repeal efforts, Trump has done little to publicly advocate for Graham-Cassidy outside of sending a few tweets. On Saturday, he fired off a few encouraging missives to senators likely to vote down the proposal, including Paul and Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski.

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Ostensibly in Alabama to boost the campaign of Sen. Luther Strange, President Donald Trump held forth for over an hour at a Friday night rally on topics including North Korea’s nuclear program, health care, Hillary Clinton, and the National Football League, at one point even promising the crowd that he would campaign for Strange’s opponent if he lost the primary.

“I told Luther if his opponent wins, I’ll be here campaigning like hell for him,” Trump told the Huntsville crowd, referring to former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice Roy Moore. He said Moore and Strange were “both good men.”

The Cotton State’s GOP primary has drawn national attention because it pits two pro-Trump candidates, one establishment and one decidedly not, against each other. Sarah Palin and former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka held a rally this week for the ardently Christian firebrand Moore, who was suspended for refusing marriage license applications for same-sex couples. Trump, in a surprise move, aligned himself with Strange, the establishment favorite backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

At the Huntsville rally, Trump tried to shift this perception, insisting that Strange would not do McConnell’s bidding.

“He doesn’t know Mitch McConnell at all. Luther is a tough cookie,” Trump said. “He doesn’t kowtow to anybody.”

But the President didn’t exactly stay on-message, telling the audience that he was “taking a big risk” by involving himself in the primary because Strange, who has consistently trailed in the polls, could very well lose.

“I shouldn’t be doing it—the last thing I want to do is be involved in a primary,” Trump said, adding, “I might have made a mistake.”

Seconds later, though, he insisted Strange was “going to win easily” and could easily defeat a Democrat in the December general election.

The six-foot-nine Strange, who Trump said he had taken to calling “Big Luther,” faces a difficult road to victory in Tuesday’s primary. The Washington Post reported that many supporters who packed the Von Braun Center were only there to see Trump and told the newspaper that they planned to vote for Moore.

“I don’t know who this guy is,” one Afghanistan war veteran told the Post of Strange. “I’m here for Trump.”

Those who showed up for a classic Trump rally got what they wanted.

The President again weighed in on North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s efforts to build nuclear weapons, calling him “Little Rocket Man” and assuring the audience that he was “going to handle it.”

He told the crowd, who broke into “Lock her up” chants when Trump mentioned Clinton’s name, to “speak to Jeff Sessions about that.”

Invoking his signature border wall, Trump said that it “has to be see-through” so that no criminals in “wonderful, wonderful” Mexico hit anyone on the U.S. side in the head when they catapult “a hundred pounds of drugs” over it.

And he spoke at length about NFL players protesting police brutality and racism by refusing to stand during the national anthem, calling it a “total disrespect of our heritage.”

Team owners should respond to those players, Trump said, by saying, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired. He’s fired!”

“For a week, (that owner would) be the most popular person in this country,” the President continued, “because that’s a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect for everything we stand for.

The crowd began trickling out early after Trump’s speech exceeded an hour, according to the Post. Strange, the candidate, had spoken for only four minutes.

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In his statement Friday sticking a knife in the GOP’s last-ditch effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) pleaded with his colleagues—again—to return to following basic Senate lawmaking procedure and work together across the aisle. Specifically, he called for the resumption of negotiations between Democrats and Republicans on a bipartisan fix for Obamacare’s vulnerable markets that Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) abruptly called off earlier this week amid GOP fervor for another whack at repeal.

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A new report from the Brookings Institute estimates that 21 million people will lose their health insurance by 2026 under Senate Republicans’ latest bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The report cautions that it’s a very conservative estimate that doesn’t take into account the bill’s per-capita Medicaid caps and the individual market turmoil the plan would likely create. The true number of uninsured people, the authors note, is likely much higher.

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In a blistering statement released Friday morning, the association representing state Medicaid directors took Congress to task for rushing a bill to the floor that would completely overhaul the nation’s health care system in just a few years and deeply cut the federal money available to states to cover hundreds of millions of people.

“We are concerned that this legislation would undermine efforts in many states and fail to deliver on our collective goal of an improved health care system,” wrote the board of the National Association of Medicaid Directors (NAMD), a 12-member body elected by all 56 U.S. Medicaid directors.

Matt Salo, the executive director of the NAMD, told TPM that while it’s nearly impossible for his members to achieve “lock-step unanimity” on anything, especially major, controversial pieces of legislation, the board “felt the concerns were strong enough and universal enough that this was an important message to say on behalf of their peers.”

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