Republican effort to repeal ObamaCare on life support?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," September 22, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: I'm encouraging Senator McCain, but especially we are encouraging Senator Susan Collins to join us in this effort.

GOV. PAUL LEPAGE, R-MAINE: The vice president and the president both recognize that one size does not fit all.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY, R-LA.: "If people start making special deals and certain states get special treatment at the expense of my state, I'm going to be very un-amused."

SEN. LUTHER STRANGE, R-ALA.: I was on the floor of the Senate at 3:00 in the morning when John McCain walked up and said thumbs down. Thumbs down. Talk about frustration.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, he said thumbs down again. Senator John McCain saying he can't vote for the Graham-Cassidy bill, and that's essentially killing it tonight, although some of the supporters and coauthors say there is still a chance. Lindsey Graham saying "My friendship with John McCain is not based on how he votes but respect for how he's lived his life and the person he is. I respectfully disagree with his position not to proceed forward with Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson. Obamacare is collapsing in Arizona, South Carolina, and across the nation. I feel an obligation to fix this disaster and intend to push forward for state-centric health care versus Washington knows best health care. We press on."

But they pressed on against the odds. As you take a look at the votes, opposed, Senator McCain, Senator Rand Paul, and concerned Senator Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski, but they seem closer to no then yes, even though it's not official. Let's bring in our panel from Washington: Kimberley Strassel of the Wall Street Journal editorial board; Byron York, chief political correspondent of The Washington Examiner, and A.B. Stoddard, associate editor at Real Clear Politics and host of "No Labels Radio" on Sirius XM. Kimberley, your thoughts?

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Republicans are very disappointed again with McCain, and I think they have a right to be because the stated reasons that he gave for why he is saying no, they just again do not hold water. He said that he didn't want it because he didn't have a CBO score. But the reality is the CBO score here is irrelevant because you don't know what the states are going to do with the money that they are block printing.

He said that he wished that there was more of a bipartisan process, but the reality is and what his colleagues know is that Democrats are never going to agree to any bill that's anything other than an insurance bailout. And truly, actually if he did care about by bipartisanship he would be sending this money back to both Democratic and Republican states which can choose to use of the way they wanted to.

BAIER: A.B., is it fair to say that he twice now kept Obamacare alive?

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Well, yes. I mean, look, anything, as the bill author said, could happen over the weekend. They could change some things. They could tweak it in a way to pick up some other support. Maybe they can bring Lisa Murkowski or Susan Collins around. And maybe it wouldn't be John McCain who killed the Bill.

But I happen to agree with John McCain that anything that's going to last is going to have to be bipartisan. Republicans railed against this bill and so did I on this show with you, Bret, for so many years because it passed --

BAIER: Including John McCain, we should point out.

STODDARD: As a bipartisan bill jammed through without real consensus for lasting change. So he was right when he says anything they kind of jam through which, by the way, doesn't look like it can even pass the House right now even if it had -- if it does squeak through next week, is just going to be something that continues to create uncertainty and will face change in the next power shift in Congress. So I think he's right about that.

Yes, there are others that think that John McCain is taking one for the team, that they don't want to vote for this, they know it can die in the House. A CBO score will surface. And when they have in the past, as irrelevant people think the CBO is, that has really created backlashed against these bills, bringing them to 17 percent approval rating, and I think of further eroding Republicans' credibility with voters on this issue. They need to figure out something that stabilizes the marketplace this fall while the insurance companies are making their decisions about rates for '18 and in the future, and then they can come back around at this again. But jamming through this bill I think is going to come back to haunt them.

BAIER: The only bipartisan thing happening up there on health care, Byron, was the Alexander-Murray effort, the Patty Murray, Lamar Alexander, and that required money to shore up insurance companies to essentially prop up Obamacare, wasn't it?

BYRON YORK, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Yes, precisely what a lot of Republicans don't want to do. But I think it's time for everyone to just admit that there is a significant number of Republicans who just don't want to repeal Obamacare.

Back when the House was voting on this, a number of members told me that -- they kept saying that there is 20-40 people here, Republicans, who don't want to do this. They don't want to repeal Obamacare. And indeed, when the vote happen, they lost 20 Republicans. Twenty voted against it. They passed it right at the number at 217. Now, those 20 House Republicans are equivalent to four or five Senate Republicans, and they do not have that margin. They can't lose three or more. So I think basically this is happening because Republicans don't want to do it.

BAIER: Kim, what does this say -- or does it foreshadow anything about the upcoming tax reform vote and battle that we will see in coming weeks?

STRASSEL: Look, what do we have again? We have a Republican caucus that made a promise, ran on it for seven, eight years, and once again is failing to fulfill it. That's going to depress a lot of people out there as they head into this now even more hard to do tax reform because, believe it or not, with all the differences in health care, tax reform is harder when you add in all the provisions of all the different lobbyists. So this is not a good foreshadowing.

One other thing, by the way. People talk about a bipartisan health care bill. The reality is you can never get that because people's views are so divergent on this. You have total free marketers on one side and Bernie Sanders and Medicare for all on the other. The one area that in fact there's always been bipartisanship up until recently was the idea sending money back to the states and letting them craft their own solutions, which is why it's such a pity that this one bill is not moving forward.

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