U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Gov. Nikki Haley on Monday opened the S.C. front in the Republican Party’s battle to roll back health care legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama last year.
At a State House news conference, Graham and Haley took turns blasting the law as an expensive federal takeover of the nation’s health care system. Graham said the law, which won 60 votes in the 100-member U.S. Senate, was passed through a “sleazy” process that offered no opportunity for GOP input.
Graham also said he has introduced legislation to allow South Carolina and other states to “opt out” of the law, which is being challenged in federal courts.
“I’m confident that, if given the chance, a large number of states would opt out of the provisions regarding the individual mandate, employer mandate and expansion of Medicaid,” Graham said, referring to requirements in the law that individuals buy insurance, companies offer it and Medicaid be expanded to cover those without insurance. “As more states opt out, it will have the effect of repealing and replacing Obamacare.”
Graham’s legislation faces an uphill climb in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats despite big GOP gains during last fall’s elections. It takes 60 votes to force a vote on a proposal, and Senate Republicans number only 47. A repeal vote in the Senate also recently failed.
Haley drew national attention last year when she asked Obama to allow states to opt out of provisions of the health care law. The president said states could opt out — if they met certain criteria, including preventing insurers from denying coverage to consumers because of pre-existing conditions.
Obama has said he is open to some modifications of the law but called efforts to repeal it a waste of time, vowing to veto any repeal. The GOP does not have enough congressional votes to override a presidential veto if Democrats vote to uphold their president’s veto.
Graham and Haley said Monday they will press ahead, arguing the law would cost South Carolina $3.2 billion over the next 10 years.
“That’s a conservative number,” Haley said. “It’s one that we cannot afford.”
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