Trump courts Senate GOP on health care bill – Washington Times
The White House says President Trump wants to pass a single Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill, but he’s courting Senate Republicans who want to rip off the Band-Aid and gut the 2010 law upfront, leaving Congress no choice but to replace it in a bout of legislative summer school this August.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell quickly dismissed the idea, saying his troops will keep trying to pass a bill that both guts the Affordable Care Act and begins to replace it with market-oriented reforms.
“I’m sitting there with a Rubik’s Cube, trying to figure out how to twist the dials to get to 50 [votes] to replace this with something better than” Obamacare, he said during a political fundraiser in Kentucky, according to footage posted by the Courier-Journal newspaper of Louisville.
“We’re going to continue to wrestle with this and try to get it done,” Mr. McConnell added.
But Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican, said if Senate Republicans cannot settle on a health care bill by the time they return from the July 4th break, they’re doomed to fail thus letting Obamacare persist.
“You campaigned and won on the repeal of ObamaCare. So did every Republican senator. We should keep our word,” Mr. Sasse told Mr. Trump in a recent letter.
Mr. Sasse said leaders should cancel the August recess and work — six days a week — on a reform package that can be passed by Labor Day.
Mr. Trump endorsed the idea Friday, signaling that he is growing impatient with the pace of Republican leaders’ efforts and wouldn’t mind a two-part strike, even though he pushed them in January to repeal and replace the 2010 simultaneously.
“If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!” he tweeted Friday.
Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, quickly endorsed the idea, too, while Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that if Senate Republicans cannot settle on a free-market plan soon, they should “push full repeal and then embark on an iterative, step-by-step process to decide what comes next.”
Conservatives say it’s time to revive a 2015 bill that used fast-track budget rules to gut Obamacare without fear of a Democratic filibuster. That way, moderate holdouts who pledged to repeal the law will be forced out of the shadows.
“This was a key promise by Republicans for years, going back to the tea party in 2010,” said Jim DeMint, a former U.S. senator and president of the Heritage Foundation who is now an adviser at the Convention of States.
Mr. Sasse, who had been in touch with the administration, particularly Vice President Mike Pence, about health care strategy for months, discussed his idea in an interview on the “Fox and Friends” early Friday. Mr. Trump tweeted his support for the idea shortly thereafter.
It’s unclear how much traction the repeal-then-replace idea will get.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich rejected the idea Sunday, saying Obamacare may be flawed but that repealing it upfront would induce too much uncertainty among people who’ve gained coverage from the law.
“You just can’t get rid of this, because you can’t leave people without what they need,” the 2016 Republican presidential-primary hopeful, told ABC’s “This Week.”
Breaking the Republican repeal-and-replace effort into discrete parts would depart from the current strategy. The House already passed a bill that would dismantle Obamacare and replace as much of it as possible under the budget process.
For now, Mr. McConnell is still trying to mollify competing factions within his conference, after he was forced to delay a planned floor vote last week.
Armed with enough savings to cut deals with holdouts, leadership is floating $45 billion opioids money to calm of nerves of moderate holdouts who say Medicaid cuts will hamstring addiction treatment, while stress-testing a “freedom” amendment by Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, that would let insurers sell cheaper, skimpier plans in the marketplace so long as at least one of their offerings complies with Obamacare’s regulations.
GOP leaders are hoping for an expedited score of the idea from the Congressional Budget Office, which recently dented their plans by estimating that 22 million fewer Americans would hold insurance under their draft plan by 2026.
That CBO score spooked several GOP centrists who are leery about sweeping cuts to Medicaid insurance for the poor and gutting Obamacare’s consumer protections for the sick.
Even so, White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said he’s confident that Senate Republicans can settle on a plan when they return to Washington next week.
“We’re getting close,” he told “Fox News Sunday.” He added, “The American people know that Obamacare is failing.”
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