Senate Republicans near votes to replace Obamacare with state block grants

Sen. Bill Cassidy (left), who wrote the state block grant bill with Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said the legislation is near the vote threshold to pass. "We are thinking that we can get this done by Sept. 30," he said Friday. (Associated Press/File)

Senate Republicans pushing to replace Obamacare with state block grants are making real noise before their window to act closes, insisting they are just one or two votes shy and that President Trump can nudge their last-gasp bill to victory.

“We are thinking that we can get this done by Sept. 30,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, the Louisiana Republican who co-wrote the bill with Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said Friday.

Republican leadership seemed to greet the bill with a shrug when it was introduced last week, yet Mr. Cassidy said the idea “took off” during a Thursday luncheon that focused on health care.

The senator said his informal whip count stands at “48 or 49” Republican votes — close to the 50-vote threshold needed to pass a bill, using Vice President Mike Pence as a tie-breaker.

Senior Democrats, meanwhile, are rallying Obamacare’s defenders to stamp out a revived threat to their signature law.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, issued a “red alert” on Twitter over the weekend.

“Trumpcare is back & Senate GOP has until Sept 30 to pass their bill,” he wrote. “We need your voices more than ever!”

Under the plan, Obamacare money that pays for an expansion of Medicaid and that subsidizes coverage for many of those who buy insurance on the exchanges would be pooled and instead given to states as block grants. The states would tailor the money to their own health care plans.

The bill would immediately repeal Obamacare’s individual mandate requiring people to get coverage or pay a tax and its rule requiring large employers to provide coverage or face crippling penalties. It also scraps the 2010 law’s tax on medical device sales.

There are “people coming out regularly and saying they’re for it, either privately or publicly,” Mr. Cassidy said.

But Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, announced Friday that he is staunchly opposed to the bill, lengthening the odds of success as his party continues to struggle with its seven-year promise to scrap the Affordable Care Act.

AARP, an influential lobby for older Americans, also said it opposes the bill, enthusing Obamacare supporters.

Senate Republicans must act by the end of the month under the 2017 budget to help avoid a Democratic filibuster.

President Trump and congressional Republican leaders are still smarting over the embarrassing failure of the repeal effort in July, so many things have to go right for the new bill to pass.

For starters, its authors are still waiting for the Congressional Budget Office to analyze the plan’s impact on spending and coverage and whether it saves enough money to satisfy budget rules.

Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican, and Sen. Dean Heller, a Nevada Republican who faces a tough re-election bid next year, have signed onto the plan. Yet Republican leaders are demanding an airtight vote count before bringing another bill to the floor.

Mr. Paul said he doesn’t support the bill because it leaves 90 percent of Obamacare in place, including many of its taxes and coverage rules. He said it amounts to “Obamacare lite.”

Sen. Susan M. Collins, a Maine Republican who rejected previous repeal attempts, said she has reservations about how the plan would affect her state. She wants to keep the focus on bipartisan efforts to shore up the insurance markets as they exist.

Bill sponsors aren’t counting on red-state Democrats to offset Republican dissenters, though they say some might hop on board if the 52-seat Republican majority fronts at least 50 votes.

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ALERT ALERT

New York's Green Light Law - Allows Illegal Aliens To Get Driver’s Licenses

New York passed a law to allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses earlier this year but it was held up by challenges.

Now it is set to take effect this week.

In typical leftist fashion, supporters claim this is going to somehow make New York’s roads safer for everyone.

Could it really be about voting?

FOX News reports:

Illegal immigrants to be able to get driver’s licenses in NY after legal challenge fails.

Illegal immigrants in New York will able to obtain driver’s licenses starting next week after a last-minute legal challenge was dismissed — making it the 13th state to allow the practice, but one that critics say is unconstitutional.

The Green Light Law, signed by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this year, allows anyone to apply for a driver’s license regardless of immigration status and does not require a Social Security number.

Illegal immigrants can use a combination of documents that include a valid passport from a foreign country and a valid foreign driver’s license, as long as it has been expired for less than two years.

“After waiting 18 years to have their right to drive restored, thanks to our legislature, New York can now officially join 12 other states in making driver’s licenses legally available to all residents,” New York Immigration Coalition Executive Director Steve Choi said in a statement this week, arguing that it will make roads safer and the economy stronger.

County clerks in New York have concerns and are sounding an alarm.

CBS News in Albany reports:

County clerks concerned by loopholes in Green Light law.

Undocumented immigrants now have the green light to get a driver’s license in New York…but several county clerks in the Capital Region are concerned.

Saratoga County Clerk Craig Hayner said, “We found that everything we were concerned about as far as fraud and all sorts of other things are in that bill, in that regulation and we’re very concerned.”

Hayner tells CBS6’s Lynsey Smith there are a few loopholes in the Green Light Law.

Loopholes, such as a person coming in to get their license and not having to provide their social security number.

“That could lead to criminals coming from other states, coming in and use that as a way to defraud by just simply saying they don’t have a social security number…and that’s a very dangerous loophole,” replied Hayner.

Does anyone believe this is going to make New York safer or that this is really about driving?

Delusional Democrats

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