Repeal and Replace Builds Momentum as the GOP Makes One Last Push

Senate Republicans’ last-gasp Obamacare repeal effort is gaining steam, with key senators who tanked the last push in July signaling new openness to the latest attempt and GOP leaders growing increasingly bullish.

While the proposal written by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) remains short of 50 votes, it also has just one hard “no” vote, from Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, and another expected "no" in Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. Three “no” votes would kill the bill, but in an encouraging sign for repeal proponents, no one is stepping forward yet to deliver that final nail.

Instead, wavering senators remain on the sidelines. Conservative Sen. Mike Lee of Utah is warming to the legislation, which would turn federal health care funding into block grants for states and eliminate Obamacare’s coverage mandate, while Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is undecided.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas called the discussions “serious” but “preliminary,” declining to commit the chamber to voting on the bill. But it was clear that Senate leaders were far more upbeat after huddling on Monday evening with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

“The odds are improving,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 Senate Republican leader. “I told Bill Cassidy he’s the grave robber. This thing was 6 feet under. And I think he’s revived it to the point that there’s a lot of positive buzz and forward momentum.”