Sen. Lindsey Graham was certainly no fan of Donald Trump when he briefly ran against him during the GOP presidential primary, and he offered some of the most blistering critiques of any Republican of the party's nominee during the general election. But time apparently heals all wounds, because the South Carolina Republican is now sounding every alarm to save President Trump from near certain political disaster as a result of Republicans' plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
"Mr. President, don’t take a bad deal. You’re a great negotiator. If you can find a better way using Republicans alone, do it. But if you can’t,” Graham said during a Monday interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, “walk away.”
All week Graham has made the media rounds to offer unsolicited advice to a man who once publicly disclosed the senator's cellphone number on the campaign trail.
"Let it collapse,” Graham said on Fox News on Monday. “Then challenge the Democratic Party.”
On Wednesday Graham predicted on conservative talk-radio host Hugh Hewitt's show that "Democrats are not going to lift a finger to help President Trump," and repeated his urging to "let it collapse" even if that would result in millions losing health insurance coverage.
"We’re going to get killed!"Hewitt told Graham. "I think you’re misjudging the political consequences of that strategy dramatically."
But Graham insisted that doing nothing, despite seven years of GOP campaign promises to the contrary, would be worse for Republicans and the president politically.
"This idea you’ve got to do it now, and you’ve got to do it right now this way, if this way doesn’t work, why would you do it now?" Graham asked. He called the House GOP bill presented by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., "a once in a lifetime opportunity for every Republican to own a bad bill":
If you pass a bill that is using the same process the Democrats did, you ignore every warning sign and you go through anyway, and you take [Congressional Budget Office] numbers and you just excuse everything the CBO said, if at the end of the day the 62-year-old person in Greenville, South Carolina, doesn’t get help from this bill, if their premiums don’t go down, that if Medicaid continues to explode and expand, then what good have you done? Here’s what I would suggest to the president. Keep working hard. I want to work with you. I want to get to yes. But if it doesn’t work, if we can’t get there by ourselves, let it collapse. It is collapsing. Obamacare is a nightmare for the country. Democrats are not going to lift a finger to help President Trump. I would do collapse and replace if you can’t get a good, solid fix to Obamacare using reconciliation.
On NBC’s “Today” on Wednesday, Graham continued to assail the troubled House GOP bill. “It is mortally wounded; I don’t know if it’s died yet,” he said when asked whether the GOP House bill is “dead on arrival” in the Senate.
"This is the last best chance for Republicans to pass health care by themselves and screw it up,” the senator said.
The bill backed by House Speaker Paul Ryan has received very little love in Washington, even from his own caucus. This week, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the Republican plan would cause 14 million people to lose their health care coverage within the first year.
“Look at the CBO as a sort of a blinking warning light,” Graham told “O’Reilly Factor” host Bill O’Reilly on Monday.
Graham's suggestion to the president is similar to sentiments Trump has publicly shared in the lead-up to the unveiling of Ryan's plan.
"[T]he easiest thing would be to let it implode in ’17 and believe me, we’d get pretty much whatever we wanted," Trump said at a January press conference He as since repeated the do-nothing argument several times. As Salon's Heather Digby Parton has pointed out, Trump has built his modern political career on using former President Barack Obama as a punching bag and he still "thinks it would be useful for him to have Obamacare to kick around for a while."
Unfortunately for Trump, Ryan doesn't plan on making it easy for him to wiggle out of a plan that the White House has already endorsed.
"This is something we wrote with President Trump. This is something we wrote with the Senate committees," Ryan said on Fox Business' "Mornings with Maria" on Wednesday.