By Molly K. Hooper - 05/26/14 06:19 AM EDT
House conservatives will press their leaders this week to move on an ObamaCare replacement bill before the August recess.
According to several GOP lawmakers, members of the conservative-leaning Republican Study Committee (RSC) plan to wear lapel pins to the weekly conference meeting that state, "HR 3121, There's a Better Way" as a sign of support for moving a bill that is co-sponsored by 130 House Republicans.
Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), the lead sponsor of H.R. 3121, the "American Health Care Reform Act of 2013," told The Hill that RSC members will "all wear little pins to conference [this] week … to push our leadership to bring this bill up or [another] bill up.”
The Tennessee doctor said the GOP has two months to move an alternative to the House floor before lawmakers head back to their districts for the month-long recess. Roe noted that several alternatives have been offered by his colleagues, including fellow physician Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.).
House GOP members agree on about 80 percent of what should be in a repeal-and-replace bill, Roe said, adding there has been some disagreement on tax provisions.
The Roe measure, strongly backed by RSC Chairman Rep. Steve Scalise (La.), would fully repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with an expansion of health savings accounts, medical liability reform and the elimination of restrictions on purchasing insurance across state lines.
But time is of the essence.
Since the House GOP leadership's announcement of their intention to offer a replacement bill at the start of the year, Republican lawmakers have seen little evidence that it will happen before Congress breaks for the August recess. Proponents of the Roe bill note they could tout the bill this summer with their constituents.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has vowed to pass a replacement bill in 2014.
Some Republicans are wary of tackling such a controversial issue so close to the election. They also point out that offering a bill would give Democrats political ammunition that could be used in campaign ads this fall.
Proponents of an ObamaCare replacement measure counter that President Obama has repeatedly mocked Republican leaders for not keeping their promise to come up with an alternative.
Whatever Republicans put forward, Democrats won't support it. That means GOP leaders will have to keep defections under 20 in order to get 218 votes. That won't be easy.
There are some Republicans who only want to repeal ObamaCare, and not replace it. Republican leaders have been making the case that approach isn't feasible because ObamaCare benefits are now in effect. Stripping people of their new healthcare coverage would likely produce a strong backlash from voters.
Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) said a handful of lawmakers met with leadership "about four weeks ago" to get an update on the GOP's plan, but little has come from that meeting.
"I think, to be honest with you, there's so much toxic coming out about ObamaCare, which, as you know, is improving [the GOP's] political landscape. And convincing Americans that they don't like ObamaCare, it's really taken a lot of the pressure away from Republicans to come forward with legislation," said Fleming, a co-sponsor of Roe's bill.
He added that "absolutely" Republicans need to move their alternative because "the public is demanding it ... and we need to give them our ideas."
Roe and Fleming believe that the GOP's alternative first needs to go through "regular order," meaning the committees with jurisdiction should markup the legislation.
Those committees are Ways and Means; Energy and Commerce; and Education and the Workforce. Of the three chairmen of those panels, only Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) is a co-sponsor of Roe's bill.
Ways and Means Committee spokeswoman Sarah Swinehart said, "We do not have a markup scheduled. We generally notice our markups three days in advance. I expect we will continue to have hearings on ObamaCare, but we do not have any scheduled right now."
The other two committees did not comment for this article.
A GOP leadership aide said Cantor is working with top members to produce an ObamaCare replacement bill. The staffer said Cantor wants to move a measure before the August break, but it remains unclear if that will happen.
Cantor's promise of acting this year could mean House Republicans would vote on a bill in the lame-duck session after the midterm elections.
A trio of Republican senators have offered their ObamaCare replacement bill, but it hasn't been endorsed by GOP leaders in the upper chamber.