The latest—and likely, for now, the last—Republican attempt to repeal major parts of the Affordable Care Act began on Wednesday with an epic, and revealing, exaggeration.
“Behind me is the only thing between you and single-payer health care, a small band of brothers looking for a sister,” Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told reporters as he, three other GOP senators, and one former senator unveiled a bill that would scrap Obamacare’s insurance mandates and convert the rest of the law into a block-grant program for the states.
Graham was referring to that other big health-care rollout occurring in the Capitol on Wednesday: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’s introduction of a “Medicare-for-all” bill that has picked up support from Democratic senators positioning themselves for possible presidential runs in 2020. The South Carolina Republican, himself a failed White House contender last year, embraced the Sanders plan as a point of contrast with his own, and he framed the consequences of failure in dire terms for his party.
“We need people onboard now to stop what I believe is inevitable if we fail,” Graham said.
This is what the final embers of the GOP’s repeal-and-replace effort has become—not so much a debate over the merits of the increasingly popular health-care law currently in place, but a competition with a liberal dream that remains years away from a viable shot at enactment. No matter the outcome of Graham’s Hail Mary for Obamacare repeal, Sanders’s single-payer bill is not inevitable, at least not anytime soon. Not with just 15 Democratic co-sponsors in the Senate, and not without Democratic majorities in Congress and a Democratic president in the White House.