Pelosi presses Ryan for ObamaCare repeal analysis before vote

Pelosi presses Ryan for ObamaCare repeal analysis before vote
© Greg Nash

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is pressing GOP leaders to delay votes on their ObamaCare replacement legislation until its budget and coverage impacts can be analyzed.

Republicans unveiled a pair of proposals Monday evening, with plans to mark them up Wednesday in both the Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees — a window that excludes hearings and likely won’t allow the time for the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to examine its costs beforehand.

Pelosi and the Democrats say it’s a dereliction to ask lawmakers to vote on legislation of such consequence without an independent assessment of the budget, coverage and quality-of-care impacts.

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In a Tuesday letter to Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanThe Hill Interview: Budget Chair Black sticks around for now Gun proposal picks up GOP support GOP lawmaker Tim Murphy to retire at end of term MORE (R-Wis.), she asked for a delay.

“Members must not be asked to vote on this legislation before the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation have answered the following questions about your legislation in 2018 and 2019, over the 10-year budget window, and in the decade after,” Pelosi wrote.

“How will this bill measure up to the Affordable Care Act and current Medicaid law on coverage, quality, and cost? And how will it impact Medicare solvency?”

A GOP aide defended the timeline on Tuesday, saying it’s not uncommon for committees to mark up proposals — including healthcare bills — before the CBO has weighed in.

“Per House rules, we will have a score from CBO before the bill is up for a vote on the House floor,” the aide said in an email.

“The important thing to remember is that this is a fiscally responsible piece of legislation that will improve health care for millions of Americans and protect taxpayers. And this bill is the first step in our process. Reconciliation lays the groundwork for many more patient-centered health care reforms.”

Republicans have hammered former President Obama’s signature healthcare reform law since its inception in 2010, and they’ve spent the last seven years vowing to repeal it when given the chance. On Monday, they released their plan, which eliminates the central elements of ObamaCare, including the insurance mandate and federal subsidies for low-income Americans, while establishing a system of tax credits designed to make coverage affordable to those who want it.

The GOP bill also winds down ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion, which provides coverage to millions of low-income patients.

GOP leaders hailed the legislation as a necessary step for stabilizing insurance markets that they say have been upended by ObamaCare.

“It’s time to turn a page and rescue our health care system from this disastrous law,” Ryan said Monday.

The Democrats have a decidedly different view, warning that the Republicans’ repeal effort could increase deficit spending; hike premiums, particularly on the poor; and cause tens of millions of people to lose their coverage altogether.

Those effects, the Democrats charge, run counter to President Trump’s populist campaign, which featured vows to help the country’s working class.

“The little guy is the one who is going to suffer from this — the working guy who is benefitting from the subsidies and from the Medicaid expansion,” Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), senior Democrat on the Energy and Commerce panel, told reporters Tuesday. “The very person who he said he was going to help is the person who … is going to be devastated and lose their health insurance.”

The Democrats are also hitting the Republicans — who hammered Democrats for a lack of transparency throughout the process of passing ObamaCare — with the same charge now that GOP leaders are in power, accusing the Republicans of outright hypocrisy.

“Every American will be affected by this bill, [but] not a single American will be able to testify on this bill,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the Democratic whip, said Tuesday during a press briefing in the Capitol. “Not one. We have no score on this bill.”

Hoyer acknowledged that the Democrats considered an early version of the ObamaCare legislation without a CBO score.

“That’s accurate,” he said. “[But], of course, that’s after months and months and months of hearings, both in the Senate and in the House. … And there was a score thereafter, which showed that … we had, in fact, paid for the policies that we have adopted.”

Passage of the GOP bill is hardly assured, as a number of Republicans in both chambers, particularly those conservatives backed by the Tea Party, are already balking at a package deemed by many as a milder version of ObamaCare.

The conservative Club For Growth issued a statement Tuesday hammering “RyanCare” as a "warmed-over substitute for government-run health care.”

Considering the early conservative outcry, Hoyer said passage “is very much in doubt.”

Perhaps hoping to tamp down the early criticisms, Ryan is holding a press conference with committee chairmen at 4:45 p.m. Tuesday.