Tea Partiers resist GOP healthcare repeal tactic

Tea Party lawmakers are balking at the House Republican leadership’s plan to simultaneously repeal and replace President Obama’s healthcare law.

The resistance from conservative lawmakers is a clear indication of the challenge Republican leaders face in their uphill battle to rescind the law. The emerging friction in the GOP conference also reflects the difficult transition from campaigning in the minority party to governing in the majority.

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Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Steve King (R-Iowa) say Republicans should repeal the law without attaching a proposal to replace it.

Bachmann, a founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, told The Hill on Wednesday, “We need to have a full-scale repeal of ObamaCare, then from there …what we need to do is to have a debate on how are we going to offer the greatest-quality healthcare to the widest swath of people at the lowest possible price. We need to make that argument why free-market healthcare is a good thing.”

In their Pledge to America, released earlier this fall, GOP leaders vowed to replace portions of what they call “ObamaCare.” However, GOP congressional candidates, many of whom will be sworn into office next month, were not involved in the crafting of that document.

King, another Tea Party favorite, argues that any approach that seeks to tie “replacement” provisions to a repeal bill would run contrary to the idea of an open and transparent Congress that GOP leaders have promised.

The conservative Iowa lawmaker said that the 87 incoming GOP freshmen need an opportunity to offer their own alternatives to replace the new healthcare law.

“We can’t do it simultaneously … if you attach any components to the repeal as a condition of repeal, that you have to replace it with somebody’s proposal that hasn’t yet been debated or vetted here in this Congress; you are seeking to commit the 87 freshmen to a proposal that was simply a motion to recommit on the healthcare bill. That is not a new and open Congress. That would violate [Speaker-designate] John Boehner’s [R-Ohio] principles,” King said.

 He added that Republicans must move a repeal bill soon after formally taking control of the lower chamber in January.

Rep.-elect Allen West (R-Fla.) echoed King’s sentiment recently.

“You’ve got to have the full repeal vote, and then we need to go back to reintroduce the proper type of legislation,” West said in an interview during freshman orientation in mid-November.

Incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told a group of students on Monday night that “what you will see us do is to push for repeal of the healthcare bill, and at the same time, contemporaneously submit our replacement bill, that has in it the provisions [barring discrimination due to pre-existing conditions and offering young people affordable care options].”

Cantor stressed that while he supports full repeal of the current law, Republicans share some of the same goals as Democrats, although they propose different ways of achieving them.

“We too don’t want to accept any insurance company’s denial of someone and coverage for that person because he or she may have a pre-existing condition,” Cantor said, addressing a young woman in the audience who noted she had such a condition.

While a straight repeal would likely attract the votes of all House Republicans, it remains to be seen if a simultaneous “repeal and replace” bill would cause some GOP lawmakers to defect.

Should Republicans adopt a strategy of first repealing and then replacing at a later date, Democrats would criticize them for seeking to eradicate the popular parts of the law.

However, those parts are expected to remain in law, because a repeal measure is unlikely to clear the Democratic-led Senate. And if it did, it would face a certain veto from President Obama.

Republican leadership aides say the logistics involved with moving such a piece of legislation or pieces of legislation have yet to be determined.

Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said, “House Republicans made a pledge to America that we will pass legislation to repeal the job-killing healthcare law and replace it with common-sense reforms to lower costs and protect American jobs. While the leaders are still discussing the mechanics of how that will happen, our commitment to the American people is clear.”

Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring said that “the new Republican majority will act swiftly to repeal ObamaCare.”

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), who is vying to become chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said on a conference call hosted by the nation’s largest Tea Party umbrella organization on Monday night that he would move a repeal bill as soon as possible.

Barton said that his first act would be to repeal the law.

“The No. 1 issue before the Energy Committee is going to be repealing ObamaCare. … I think the repeal bill can be pretty straightforward. We just repeal everything after the enacting clause. That’s gonna be No. 1,” Barton said.

An aide familiar with Barton’s thinking explained that his position isn’t at odds with GOP leaders’, noting that he would work in concert with the leadership team on a strategy to move repeal-and-replace measures.

Barton also said on the conference call that he would “come up with a replacement bill to keep the parts of the bill that make sense, that are not bureaucratic and mandatory and all of that. Our current healthcare system needs to be reformed. Again, we need to bring stakeholders and the public in so that it’s a transparent process.”

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who also is seeking to chair the Energy and Commerce Committee, told The Hill that a “repeal bill has to come early,” but stopped short of providing specifics on replacing the measure.

A GOP leadership aide said the effort to undo the healthcare law would involve close coordination with Republican governors, noting the communication between congressional Republicans and GOP governors on welfare reform during the Clinton administration in the 1990s.

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