Senate Republicans said today that they have given up on the idea of holding a vote on the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson health insurance bill this week, but that they hope to pass it later.

(Related: 10 Medicare for All and Graham-Cassidy Highlights, for Agents)

The federal fiscal year 2017 ends Saturday. Republicans’ problems with getting the Graham-Cassidy bill through the Senate before the end of federal fiscal year 2017 could, possibly give backers of a bipartisan alternative developed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee a narrow opening to pass a bill of their own.

Graham-Cassidy

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican leaders announced the decision to put off a vote on Graham-Cassidy at a press conference streamed live on C-SPAN.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the lead sponsor, kicked off the press conference by announcing that he and other supporters will eventually pass the bill.

“It’s not a matter of if,” Graham said. “It’s only a matter of when.”

Another lead sponsor, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., acknowledged that he and other supporters lack the votes to get the bill through the Senate this week.

“Since we don’t have the votes, we’ll postpone the vote,” Cassidy said.

McConnell said the Senate will now work on updating the tax code.

“We haven’t given up on changing the American health care system,” McConnell said, but he said that the Senate won’t pass a bill revamping the health care system this week.

Alexander-Murray

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate HELP Committee, have been working for months on a bill that could shore up the individual major medical insurance market, and the Affordable Care Act public health insurance exchange system, while broader efforts to change the ACA were under way.

Calendar (Image: Thinkstock)

(Image: Thinkstock)

The committee held a series of four hearings on the individual major medical market earlier this month.

Murray reacted to news of the Graham-Cassidy vote postponement press conference on Twitter. She said she wants to continue to work on the bipartisan bill, but in language that seemed to be designed to chase any Republican negotiators away.

The postponement of the Graham-Cassidy vote “is good news for patients & families, but until Trumpcare is finally set aside, we can’t stop fighting back,” Murray said, in a series of tweets. ”I want to again make clear that I and all Democrats are ready to keep working on the bipartisan path to improve health care. Let’s pick back up where we left off & do it now. The sooner we get an agreement, the sooner we can act to stop President Trump’s sabotage.”

Alexander has not been tweeting about wanting to return to work on a bipartisan ACA change bill. He said Monday that he sees no way to get genuinely bipartisan results in the current environment, according to Politico.

The individual major medical insurance open enrollment period for 2018 is set to start Nov. 1, and insurers are still not sure how federal health insurance rules or subsidy programs will really work in 2018.

For Alexander-Murray bill supporters, one advantage is that, in theory, a bipartisan bill could attract 60 votes and pass in the Senate at any time of the year, under “regular order” rules.

To pass the Graham-Cassidy bill, which has only Republican support, backers have been counting on using a special “budget reconciliation process.” The rules for that process let the party in charge in the Senate pass one budget measure per year using a process that helps a bill get through the Senate with just 51 votes, rather than the 60 votes normally required.

Republicans have been hoping to use their 2017 budget reconciliation window to pass an Affordable Care Act change bill, and their 2018 budget reconciliation window to pass a tax change bill.

Republicans might still be able to use the 2018 budget reconciliation window to pass a measure that would change both the Affordable Care Act and the tax code.

—-Read How to Compromise on Universal Health Care on ThinkAdvisor.


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