Thune Still Hopeful Senate Can Pass Obamacare Repeal Without McCain

Tom Williams/CQPHO

With the Senate’s latest Obamacare repeal bill on its last legs Friday afternoon thanks to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) coming out against the bill, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate argued that there’s still hope for the GOP to pass the bill.

During an interview on Fox News shortly after McCain’s announcement, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said it was “certainly not a good development for passage of the bill.” But he argued that there’s still a chance it could pass.

“There are a couple of uncommitted members and there is an opportunity between now and September 30th, the end of next week, to get a vote on this, an affirmative vote. We know this issue is not going away,” Thune said.

McCain became the second Republican to definitively oppose the Graham-Cassidy bill, joining Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Just one more Republican senator opposing the bill would kill any hopes of its passage, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has sent strong signals that she will not support it.

Asked what comes next, Thune noted that the leaders on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Patty Murray (R-WA), had been working on a bipartisan measure to issue fixes to Obamacare before Senate Republicans made their long-shot, last-ditch attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Thune suggested that Democrats’ beliefs about the health care system made those negotiations difficult.

“The problem with this issue is we are going in fundamentally different directions,” Thune said. “The Democrats want to double down on Obamacare and ultimately, if you take a look at last week the bill introduced by Senator Sanders and 15 other Senate Democrats moves us to single-payer.”

Murray issued a statement after McCain’s announcement on Friday afternoon telling Republicans that she is “still at the table ready to keep working” on a bipartisan bill.