Top Republican Lindsey Graham says he is working with Steve 'Darth Vader' Bannon on Obamacare repeal

Mr Bannon has made moves to attack the Republican establishment 

Alexandra Wilts
Washington DC
Tuesday 19 September 2017 21:13 BST
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Senator Lindsey Graham speaks to reporters after the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon at the Capitol
Senator Lindsey Graham speaks to reporters after the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon at the Capitol (Getty Images)

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has said Steve Bannon – who he referred to as “Darth Vader” – is helping him build support for his bill that would repeal Obamacare.

Mr Graham’s bill, which he drafted with fellow Republican Senator Bill Cassidy, has gained momentum over the past week, reviving a fight that many in Washington thought was over when an Obamacare repeal bill failed on the Senate floor in July.

Mr Graham’s measure, known as the Graham-Cassidy bill, would give states money in block grants to run their own healthcare programmes.

“Me and Darth Vader are now talking to each other,” Mr Graham told Axios. “Steve and I have our differences. But he loves the idea of federalism. He said, ‘This is the best idea I've heard in years, maybe not coming from the best guy I've known in years.’”

After leaving his role last month as Donald Trump’s chief strategist, Mr Bannon returned to his perch at Breitbart News, a far-right media outlet.

On Tuesday, Breitbart published an article saying Rick Manning, the president of Americans for Limited Government, had urged the Senate in a statement to pass the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill as the “last best chance” to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Republicans have until the end of the month before procedural rules in the Senate make it more difficult for the party to dismantle former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law.

On the Senate floor, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the opportunity to repeal Obamacare “may well pass us by if we don’t act soon”, calling the Graham-Cassidy bill “an intriguing idea and one that has a great deal of support.”

Republicans assert that Obamacare, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act, has destabilised the individual markets for health insurance and forced consumers to buy insurance they do not want or cannot afford.

The Graham-Cassidy bill is expected to push millions off of their health insurance and weaken protections for people with pre-existing conditions, according to the progressive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

While Mr Bannon may be helping Mr Graham, the ex-White House Chief Strategist has made moves to attack the Republican establishment and Mr McConnell.

“Darkness is good,” Mr Bannon said last year in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter. “Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That's power. It only helps us when they (liberals) get it wrong. When they're blind to who we are and what we're doing.”

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