Graham-Cassidy was never all that close to 51 votes. As we said when it first started gaining steam, and have tried to reiterate since then, its outlook wasn't substantially different from the earlier Affordable Care Act repeal-and-replace attempts this summer. And it has died a similar death, sandwiched between moderate critics like Sen. Susan Collins and conservatives like Sen. Rand Paul.
- Senate GOP leaders haven't yet decided whether to go ahead and hold a floor vote on the bill, despite the number of senators lined up against it.
- Traditionally, the smart move would be not to vote. But everyone in the caucus is already on record for similar bills, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell might have to keep showing bodies to donors and conservative activists until they, too, are ready to move on.
If there is a path to passage, it would be to pull the bill hard to the right, winning over Paul and locking in Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, and hope to only lose one more vote from the center (in addition to Collins) as a result of those changes. Liberal advocates will say it's not impossible, and technically they're not wrong, but it's close.
So what did Republicans get, after trying this a fourth time?
But wait: My colleague Caitlin Owens reports this morning that a growing number of Republicans want next year's budget vehicle to leave room for both tax reform and health care — while others in the GOP fear that would only sink tax reform, denying the party any real legislative achievements before the 2018 midterms.
- "There's a pretty vocal 'do both tax reform and health care with FY18 reconciliation' camp," one senior GOP Senate aide told Caitlin.
- But a GOP lobbyist said Senate Republicans might not have the 51 votes needed just to pass a budget vehicle in the first place, if it includes both priorities. "I think this whole thing is going to get derailed by health care," the lobbyist said.