In shift, GOP wants ObamaCare fix

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Republicans have shifted their strategy on ObamaCare.

Weeks ago, many Republicans — including Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) — said ObamaCare was too broken to fix. But now, the GOP is drafting legislation that aims to do just that. 

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The GOP wants to rebuild its political capital and public credibility by solving ObamaCare’s implementation problems. This pivot comes after Republicans took major hits in polls following the government shutdown.

The House this week will vote on a measure called the Keep Your Health Plan Act. It aims to do what the president promised years ago: If you like your healthcare plan, you can stay on it. Senate Republicans, meanwhile, are pushing for a vote in their chamber. That measure has already attracted Democratic support.

Due to the insurance market and ObamaCare mandates, millions have recently lost their healthcare coverage. Many of these dropped people will obtain coverage through the new ObamaCare health exchanges, but some, if not most, will pay higher premiums. 

After their costly political strategy to defund ObamaCare, GOP lawmakers are more willing to support measures that will repair the president’s signature healthcare law, political science Professor Jack Pitney said.

“Republicans took a look at the polls. They finally realized that defunding ObamaCare was unpopular, but a measure like this [is] very popular. They realized that, despite all the brave talk, that the shutdown did not work to their advantage, and now they are trying to get on the right side of public opinion,” he said.

An attempt earlier this year to revamp ObamaCare, however, sparked a rift when GOP leaders attempted to move a bill that would have eliminated a healthcare “slush fund.”

Lacking the votes, House GOP leaders subsequently pulled the bill, sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.). At the time, conservative members said they weren’t interested in tinkering with ObamaCare.

Pitts told The Hill that his GOP colleagues “regret” that decision.

“I think that [GOP House members are] shifting toward targeted fixes, if you want to call it that,” the Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee chairman said.

Some Republicans believe that with full enactment of the law — and the inability to defund it — the party won’t be hurt politically with attempting to solve the problems arising from ObamaCare.

“Before [ObamaCare] went into effect, the only goal is to stop it; now the goal is still stop it, but I don't want to treat people harshly,” Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) explained.

The House legislation that is scheduled for a vote this week is sponsored by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.). More than 100 Republican lawmakers have already endorsed it.

Obama on Thursday admitted on NBC News that he broke the promise he made repeatedly in the lead-up to the vote on the Affordable Care Act: “If you like your healthcare plan, you’ll be able to keep your healthcare plan.”

"I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me," he said.

Boehner has seized on the apology to challenge Obama to support the GOP bill.

“An apology is certainly in order, but what Americans want to hear is that the president is going to keep his promise. ... If the president is sincerely sorry that he misled the American people, the very least he can do is support this bipartisan effort. Otherwise, this apology doesn’t amount to anything,” Boehner said.

The bill serves as a legislative “slap in the face,” according to Pitney, who noted that both parties would be well served to support the measure.

At least one Republican is not sure he will vote for it.

Tennessee GOP Rep. Scott DesJarlais said, “My opinion is that this thing will be delayed or pushed back out of necessity so, with or without a bill, if you can't repeal a bad law, then enforce it strictly and the people will repeal it for you.”

Yet, the House GOP sponsor of the bill to defund ObamaCare is on board.

“I want to foist the least amount of damage on the folks I represent so if we could do anything that helps them out, I'm all for it,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said.