Sen. Menendez joins rally against latest GOP health care bill

At a rally against the Graham-Cassidy bill in Newark, Sen. Bob Menendez vowed he will journey to Washington, D.C. next week, to vote against the Republicans’ last-ditch effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.

“No matter what personal sacrifice I will face, when Republicans bring the bill to the Senate floor I will be there to vote against it and resist against it!” said Menendez.

The sacrifice: Menendez spends most weekdays with his defense attorneys at his federal corruption trial, and the judge refused to recess so Menendez could go vote.  The senator said missing a day at trial was a tough call, but under Senate reconciliation rules, Republicans need just 50 votes. Vice President Pence would cast the tie-breaker and that makes Menendez’s vote crucial.

“My lawyers have told me that I should be in court every day, and I have been. I told them I intended to cast this vote whenever it came. They said they understood,” said Menendez.

“Say it with me, ‘We will not back down! We will fight to ensure that the ACA stays intact and we move forward to ensure health care coverage for New Jerseyans and Americans,” said Christine Sadovy, advocacy director for Planned Parenthood of Central & Greater Northern NJ.

Analysts estimate Graham-Cassidy could cost New Jersey $3.9 billion in federal health care funding over the next decade and remove coverage for 900,000 residents; and that it could also remove protections for people with pre-existing conditions and restore caps on lifetime care.

“Don’t come at me with a bill that asks me to exchange this one guarantee for a vague promise that you’ll be taken care of,” said Allison Chandra, the mother of a three-year-old cardiac patient named Ethan. “No! I have spent three years doing everything I can to ensure this child has the best life possible. I will not stop now! I will never stop! I don’t care how many times I have to tell this story!”

New Jersey’s other senator, Cory Booker, will also vote against Graham-Cassidy. Gov. Christie opposes it, too. It’d take just three Republican ‘no’ votes to sink the bill. Two are already on record: Sens. Rand Paul and John McCain. GOP pressure on Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski has intensified, along with offers of more money and exemptions for her state.

“You have enormous pressures coming in that regard. My hope will be that those senators who voted no in the past, this is no better. In some respects it’s even worse,” said Menendez.

Several Republican senators remain undecided on the bill. But they’re being lobbied hard by the administration. These advocates say, they’re going to do some lobbying right back.