Ryan Says House Would Vote on Graham-Cassidy If Senate Passes It

'It is our best last chance to get repeal and replace done,' speaker says

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., says the House will vote on a health care measure to provide block grant funding to the states if the Senate passes it. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Monday that the House would bring up a health care measure sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy for a vote if it were to pass the Senate.

“It would be our intention to bring the matter through,” Ryan said at a news conference from a Harley Davidson facility in Wisconsin, where he was promoting GOP plans to overhaul the tax code.

The speaker said the House understands there wouldn’t be time for a conference committee given the September 30 deadline for using the fiscal 2017 reconciliation vehicle Republicans set up for repealing and replacing the 2010 health care law. 

The Graham-Cassidy proposal would provide block grant funding to the states and repeal parts of the 2010 health care law but leave in place most of the taxes that were created with it. It’s far different than the American Health Care Act that the House narrowly passed this spring.

“We hope the Senate does pass Graham-Cassidy,” Ryan said. “We are encouraged at the development of Graham-Cassidy. And I am encouraging every senator to vote for Graham-Cassidy because it is our best last chance to get repeal and replace done. And I do believe it is a far greater improvement over the status quo.”

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows agreed that the Graham-Cassidy measure is the GOP’s last shot.

“The next 24 hours will determine whether we repeal Obamacare or not,” Meadows said in an interview with Roll Call Monday. “And everybody is looking to the September 30 deadline, but I really think the deadline is midnight tomorrow because if there’s not the decision to move forward with an agreement in principle, then it will be too easy to run out the clock.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has already begun talks with individual GOP senators about the proposal, is planning to take the temperature of the full Senate Republican Conference about voting on the measure during their weekly Tuesday luncheon.

Meadows said he sees a path to passage in the Senate “assuming a positive vote-a-rama and assistance to a few key states.”

Positive, from conservatives perspective, includes passage of an amendment that would strengthen states’ abilities to seek a waiver from certain insurance regulations.

“If it gets to the House it will have waiver language that gives governors plenty of flexibility,” Meadows predicted. “I can’t imagine the conservative senators voting for it without waiver language that would be acceptable to most Freedom Caucus members.”

However, Meadows noted that the Freedom Caucus has yet to discuss the Graham-Cassidy proposal in detail and would need to do so before taking any official position. 

Keeping enough conservatives and moderates both on board has proven to be difficult for the GOP, especially in the Senate where previous versions have failed to achieve a balance needed to win the support of 50 members.

The Graham-Cassidy measure appears to be short of 50 votes at the moment, so lobbying over the next day or two will be crucial. 

Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John McCain of Arizona, two of the three senators who voted against a so-called skinny repeal measure a few months ago, remain ones to watch.

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