Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is sounding increasingly pessimistic about support for a healthcare reform bill, declaring Tuesday a key defection by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has left Republicans "stuck."
Graham gloomily predicted Monday it did not seem likely a bill would pass before the end of the year, telling Bloomberg News, "I just don't think we can put it together among ourselves."
But in more definitive remarks Tuesday, he asserted, "We're stuck. We can't get there from here," The Hill reported.
"I'm very leery of a healthcare bill passing the Senate that can get through the House," he said. "We've already lost Rand Paul, so we're down to 51."
Graham insisted support from the Kentucky Republican is "irretrievably gone" — and GOP leaders can only afford one more defection and still pass legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare.
"He's not going to vote for any bill that has refundable tax credits to help low-income people buy healthcare," Graham said, The Hill reported.
Paul's spokesman bristled at the remarks.
"While we do have a press assistant opening in the Communications Department, Sen. Graham has not applied and should not make public statements on behalf of Sen. Rand Paul," spokesman Sergio Gor said in a statement, The Hill reported. "Sen. Paul remains optimistic the bill can be improved in the days ahead and is keeping an open mind."
Graham is urging Capitol Hill Republicans to "bring this to an end and move to taxes," advising, "Let Obamacare collapse" and then work with Democrats to "find a better solution."
"On taxes, that needs to be the next agenda item," he insisted. "We need to do it in calendar year 2017."
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