‘Right Now, They Don’t Have My Vote,’ Cruz Says on GOP Health Care Push

Ted Cruz speaks during a news conference about military assistance to Israel at the U.S. Capitol September 20, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz said Sunday that he does not currently support the Senate GOP’s latest bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, though he emphasized that he’s working with the sponsors of the bill in order to get to a “yes.”

“Right now, they don’t have my vote, and I don’t think they have Mike Lee’s either,” Cruz said, referring to the Utah Republican, at the annual Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, according to the Tribune. “Now I want to be a ‘yes,’ I want to get there because I think Obamacare is a disaster … but the price to getting there, I believe, is focusing on consumer freedom.”

Cruz continued, “If you want prices to go down — Econ 101, you want prices to go down, you want more choices, more options, more competition, and prices fall,” he said. “What does Obamacare do? Fewer choices, less options, less competition, prices rise. If you want people to have access to health insurance, you want prices to fall.”

Cruz’s comments come as that chances of Republicans’ latest efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare appear slim. Republicans only have until September 30 to overhaul the law with 51 votes, according to the Senate’s parliamentarian, and can only afford to lose two Republican senators to reach that threshold, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking any tie.

Two senators have already said they won’t back the legislation. McCain declared his opposition to Graham-Cassidy on Friday afternoon, citing concerns that the bill, put forth by GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, did not go through “regular order” — a series of hearings, markups and an open-amendment process.

Meanwhile, Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul — who has been a “no” vote and criticized the legislation almost daily — said Sunday that he might be able to support the measure, but only if his colleagues took the unlikely step and got rid of a proposal to turn federal funding for Medicaid expansion and Obamacare subsidies into a block grant program.

“If they narrow the focus to the things we all agree on — expanding health savings accounts, giving governors more freedom through waivers, slowing down the rate of growth of an outrageous or out-of-control entitlement spending — sure, I’d be for that,” Paul said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “But I’m just not for this block granting concept because, to me, that is an affirmative vote that I have agreed to keep Obamacare.”

Maine Sen. Susan Collins said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that it would be “very difficult for me to envision a scenario” where she would vote for the Republicans’ latest plan, but added she wanted to wait for a Congressional Budget Office assessment of the bill before rendering a final decision. That CBO score is expected as early as Monday.

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski has also expressed reservations about the GOP’s efforts to overhaul the health care system, and has yet to announce where she stands on Graham-Cassidy. As of Friday, Murkowksi’s staff said the senator was undecided and planned to take the weekend to review the legislation. But over the weekend, her governor — independent Bill Walker, whom Murkowski has recently said she relied on for guidance — told The New York Times that he saw no world in which Graham-Cassidy would be workable in the state.