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Updated: 09/21/2017 01:19:00AM

Trump endorses Graham-Cassidy

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump formally threw his weight behind a health care overhaul sponsored by GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, and criticized another high-profile Republican for opposing it.

Trump used a pair of Wednesday morning tweets to call the bill “GREAT!” and touted its plan to provide federal “Money direct to States!”

The Graham-Cassidy proposal would provide block grant funding to the states and repeal parts of the 2010 health care law but leave in place most of the taxes that were created with it. It’s far different than the so-called American Health Care Act that the House narrowly passed this spring.

The White House breathed some 11th-hour life into the measure last week ahead of a Sept. 30 deadline, with legislative affairs director Marc Short saying the administration “hopefully will get more attention in coming days.” It did just that. For the president, being able to claim a legislative victory that would, at least partially, fulfill a major campaign promise is on the line.

The president also wrote that the bill would end Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law — Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., disagreed, saying it would leave too much of it in place for him to support it.

“The Graham-Cassidy bill basically immortalizes Obamacare,” Paul told Fox News on Tuesday, calling the bill “just another big-government boondoggle.”

Paul’s opposition creates a tough needle to thread for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., even though he can pass Graham-Cassidy with 51 votes (with Vice President Mike Pence poised to be the deciding vote). He can only lose a few more Republicans if he wants to avoid another floor defeat of a GOP health care overhaul bill.

Trump tweeted that Paul is a “friend of mine,” but said, “he is such a negative force when it comes to fixing healthcare.” The GOP president also urged Republican senators to “vote for Graham-Cassidy and fulfill their promise to Repeal & Replace ObamaCare.”

For his part, Graham told reporters Tuesday he did not expect to win Paul’s support but does expect he and Cassidy will find the 50 GOP votes they need. “I’ve never felt better about where we’re at,” he said.

McConnell has not yet decided whether he will put up for a vote the Graham-Cassidy legislation, which Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., has said the House would take up if it passes the other chamber.

“If we were going to go forward, we have to act before September 30,” McConnell said Tuesday when asked when Graham-Cassidy would come to the floor.

However, the Kentucky Republican would not commit to a floor vote, saying, “We are in the process of discussing all of this.”