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LePage, in DC, Urges Collins To Back GOP Health Bill. Collins, in Maine: 'I'm Leaning Against.'

Andrew Harnik
Associated Press
Vice President Mike Pence, accompanied by Maine Gov. Paul LePage, left, speaks to members of the media before a meeting to discuss health care and tax reform in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House Complex, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage flew to Washington D.C. Friday to help the White House lobby U.S. Sen. Susan Collins to support a controversial bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

The governor joined Vice President Mike Pence for a joint media appearance in which both championed the benefits of the so-called Graham-Cassidy bill. 

"We're encouraging Sen. (Angus) King, but especially, we're encouraging today, Sen. Susan Collins, to join us in this effort," Pence said.

The appearance was part of the White House's multi-pronged effort to pressure Republican senators to support the bill.

The effort appeared to be unraveling on Friday when Arizona Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain announced that he cannot support the bill. 

McCain's announcement could doom the bill, but it may also refocus White House and other Republican pressure on Collins. That's because Republicans have 52 seats in the Senate with Pence serving as the decisive vote in the event of 50-5o tie. Republicans can only lose three votes and McCain's announcement, along with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's previously announced opposition, means Collins' position could determine the fate of the healthcare proposal.

Collins, one of three GOP senators who helped defeat the previous GOP attempt to repeal Obamacare, says she's waiting for analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office before announcing her position.

But she says there are several parts of the proposal that worry her, including big cuts to the Medicaid health care program for low income Mainers.

"The CBO is the gold standard and I would like to see what CBO says on Monday. But you're certainly correct that I have a number of grave concerns," Collins told reporters after an event in Augusta on Thursday.

Collins reiterated her concerns Friday at the Maine Affordable Housing Conference in Portland, saying again that she's “leaning against” the bill.

The previous bid by the White House to move Collins on an Obamacare repeal was unsuccessful and it's questionable whether bringing in LePage to bolster the effort will have the intended effect. LePage has repeatedly assailed Collins and King for not supporting the most recent repeal bill and he's also made derisive comments about Collins' potential gubernatorial bid.

The White House lobbying effort also extended to Alaska when Pence called into a conservative radio show to exert pressure on Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski.  Murkowski joined Collins in opposing the previous Obamacare repeal, and now, drafters of the Graham-Cassidy bill are trying to win her support by shielding states like Alaska from the proposal's Medicaid cuts.

An early Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of the Medicaid carve-out did not include Maine as one of the states that could be spared from cuts to the program if the Graham-Cassidy bill becomes law.

The partial CBO analysis of the bill is expected on Monday, while votes in the Senate could take place next week unless Senate leader Mitch Connell scuttles the bill before it comes up for a vote. 

This story was originally published Sept. 22, 2017 at 12:43 p.m. ET.