Two months into a new Congress and a bill to repeal ObamaCare has yet to move. Initially, Republicans had hoped to put a repeal bill on President Trump’s desk on his inauguration day. Then the timeline moved back to Presidents Day in February. As we head into March, the timeline threatens to slip again as a GOP plan to repeal and replace is coming under serious conservative criticism.
The draft repeal plan leaked last week replaces parts of ObamaCare with a plan that centers on a refundable tax credit — a new program that conservatives fear could cost nearly as much as ObamaCare itself. That approach has left a lot of conservatives scratching their heads. Of the refundable credit approach, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told the Wall Street Journal, “It’s a long, fancy title for an entitlement program.”
Further dimming the draft’s prospects, Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker (R-N.C.) weighed in. “The draft legislation, which was leaked last week, risks continuing major ObamaCare entitlement expansions and delays any reforms,” Walker said. “It kicks the can down the road in the hope that a future Congress will have the political will and fiscal discipline to reduce spending that this Congress apparently lacks.”
This House trio was joined by a conservative Senate trio calling for a back-to-basics approach that leads to full repeal. Sens. Mike LeeMike LeeWhy is the State Department refusing to disclose Soros' involvement in Macedonia? What to know about Trump's national monuments executive order ObamaCare must be fixed before it collapses MORE (R-Utah), Ted CruzTed CruzTrump in campaign mode at NRA convention Trump’s hands are tied on 9th Circuit Schumer: Trump's handling of North Korea 'all wrong' MORE (R-Texas) and Rand PaulRand PaulRand Paul to teach a course on dystopias in George Washington University Destructive 'fat cat' tax law a complete flop. It's time to repeal it. Trump must take action in Macedonia to fix damage done by Obama and Clinton MORE (R-Ky.) all sent tweets Monday aiming to refocus the debate. “2 yrs ago, the GOP Congress voted to repeal ObamaCare. That 2015 repeal language should be the floor, the bare minimum.”
Heritage Action added, “Americans and their elected officials remain in the dark over the creation of a new program that could cost as much as ObamaCare.” That is bad politics and potentially even worse policy. Indeed, the 2015 reconciliation bill that repealed most of ObamaCare should be on the floor, and it is the only piece of legislation that has garnered enough support to pass both the House and the Senate.
When that bill passed through Congress last year, it was widely acknowledged by GOP leadership and rank-and-file members that it was a dry run for how Republicans would repeal the bill in 2017. Now that we are at the moment of truth, some moderate Republican senators are balking at the 2015 bill, insisting that it contain a full replace plan as well.
The desire to reform America’s healthcare system is good, but the insistence that the two be done together only serves to slow down and dim the prospects for repeal all together. Indeed, if Republicans had met either of their initial two deadlines for repeal, they would not have had to face the same kind of backlash they faced in town halls over the last recess. Moreover, if they don’t accomplish the objective of repeal before the April congressional recess, the town halls will be far worse, as Republicans will be hit hard by both the political left and right as conservative grassroots activists are growing increasingly alarmed by the snail’s pace in Congress. Failure to repeal will be a broken promise not soon forgiven.
So Republicans are faced with a choice. If their draft cannot garner enough support to pass the House and Senate, what do they do? The better question may be who do they put pressure on in their own party? They can either put pressure on their conservatives or pressure on their moderates. Nearly every Republican would agree the House should pass the most conservative product and, from there, allow the Senate to work its will.
Failure is not an option, and right now House Republicans need to regain the momentum to repeal ObamaCare. Passing the 2015 bill is the best way to do that.
Tim Chapman is the chief operating officer of Heritage Action for America.
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