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Lindsey Graham promises Obamacare repeal if Trump wins and GOP takes back the House

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.).
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.). (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), one of President Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill, vowed that Republicans will repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2021 if they win back the House and keep the White House.

Graham, who is up for reelection next year, told a conservative South Carolina radio show earlier this week that given the chance, Republicans will repeal the 2010 health-care law and replace it with something better. Earlier efforts by Republicans, including in the first two years of Trump’s presidency when they held the House and the Senate, were unsuccessful.

Echoing Trump’s critique of why they failed, Graham noted that “we were one vote short in the Senate” — an apparent reference to his late best friend and fellow Republican senator, John McCain. Trump continues to disparage McCain (Ariz.) for his thumbs-down vote on a skinny-repeal bill in 2017 that killed momentum for Republicans trying to do away with the Obama legacy law as they had been promising to do for seven years.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said that former Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is "an American hero, and nothing will change that in my eyes." (Video: Reuters)

“We’ve got to remind people that we’re not for Obamacare,” Graham said in the radio interview.

“If we can get the House back and keep our majority in the Senate, and President Trump wins reelection, I can promise you not only are we going to repeal Obamacare, we're going to do it in a smart way where South Carolina will be the biggest winner,” Graham said.

Democrats credit health care with their electoral successes in 2018. They ran on the GOP’s desire to dismantle the ACA, specifically the lack of a plan to protect coverage for people with preexisting conditions. The issue remains relevant going into the 2020 elections, as a lawsuit to overturn the entire law makes its way through the courts with support from the Trump administration.

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“Republicans are STILL trying to take away protections for people with pre-existing conditions and kick tens of millions off their health coverage,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted in response to Graham’s comments.

A few hours later, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also reacted.

“The Affordable Care Act remains the law because Democrats have fought back Republican attack and sabotage,” Pelosi tweeted.

Graham wrote his own version of an ACA repeal bill in 2017 that would have shifted decision-making on coverage plans to states, notably by allowing them to decide not to cover any of the essential benefits, which the ACA requires, such as mental health care and addiction treatment.

Trump and other Republicans, in the wake of the two mass shootings in Texas and Ohio over the weekend, have spoken about their desire to do something on mental health, but GOP policies on health care have run counter to that.

In the radio interview, Graham also seemed to slip up when he credited the strong economy to President Barack Obama instead of Trump.

“It’s no accident that under President Obama the economy is humming; there‘s more jobs and more money in your paycheck,” Graham said.

In the background, someone can be heard saying, “What?”