The dueling views came as the clock kept ticking toward to a Sept. 30 deadline for passage of the Graham-Cassidy bill, which would effectively replace the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans, who have 52 seats in the Senate, continue to struggle to cobble together the 50 votes they need in that chamber to pass the bill.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Tuesday did not commit to holding a vote on the bill before the end of the month, a sign of the political difficulty it faces.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of the bill’s sponsors, told reporters that if Republicans passed the legislation it would “stop a march toward socialism.”
Graham warned that if the bill fails, the nation would move closer to adopting a single-payer health system of the kind called for last week by Sen. Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist from Vermont.
“Here’s the choice for America: socialism or federalism when it comes to your health care,” said Graham, whose bill would block grant federal funds to individual states to craft their own health coverage systems.
But Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Graham-Cassidy is “a bill to end Medicaid as we know it.”
Schumer said individual Republicans are “ashamed” of the bill, and are trying to ram it through Congress without a traditional set of hearings and without a full analysis of its effects by the Congressional Budget Office because “they’re afraid to find out what it actually does” to Americans.
Pence said he was set to tell Republican senators at a lunch Tuesday that the House of Representatives will reject any legislation to prop up individual insurance markets under the Affordable Care Act.
But the 10 governors — Republicans, Democrats and an independent — called on the Senate to pass exactly that kind of insurance market stabilization legislation.
A Senate committee led by Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., has been considering a series of measures to prop up Obamacare markets, including by guaranteeing the continuation of federal subsidies paid to insurance companies in exchange for discounts in customers’ out-of-pocket health costs.
Pence’s comments came aboard Air Force Two as it flew to Washington from New York, with Graham aboard.
On Monday night, Pence told a pool reporter aboard the flight that President Donald Trump called Graham to encourage him, and to say the bill must be passed by Congress.
When Graham said he had gained a new appreciation for the president’s tenacity, Pence quipped, “You’re learning.”
Pence said he planned to tell senators Tuesday, “This is the moment. Now is the time” to pass an Obamacare repeal bill.
Pence said he also would make clear that Obamacare is collapsing and that the House will not support any efforts to either fix or bolster that health-care law.
“We have 12 days,” Pence added, referring to deadline for passing the Graham-Cassidy legislation under the terms of the reconciliation process being used to get the bill approved with just 50 senators voting for it.
The vice president said that he and Graham have been lobbying senators on the phone to support the bill.