Republicans hoping to revive their ObamaCare repeal effort within President Trump’s first 100 days have learned nothing from their stunning failure to pass a healthcare bill last month, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi charged Thursday.
The California Democrat, who as House Speaker was vital in passing the Affordable Care Act in 2009 and 2010, said Republicans’ arbitrary deadlines ignore the reality that GOP leaders have been unable to rally their party behind specific legislation.
“Timing is the most important thing — timing to bring up a bill when you have the votes,” Pelosi said Thursday in Austin, Texas, during the taping of PBS’s “Overheard With Evan Smith” program.
Since their initial effort fell short, Republicans, encouraged by the White House, have been working to revise repeal-and-replace legislation in hopes of attracting enough GOP support to pass the measure on the House floor next week.
The president and congressional Republicans are hungry for a big legislative win after Trump vowed throughout the campaign to repeal ObamaCare “on day one” of his administration. The president’s 100-day window, though, is closing quickly.
Trump, for his part, said Thursday that the process is “evolving” and he’s optimistic Republicans will ultimately win on healthcare reform.
“We're doing very well on healthcare,” he said during a press briefing at the White House. “We will see what happens, but this is a great bill. There's a great plan, and this will be great healthcare.”
He did not address the timing of a vote.
Pelosi hammered the new GOP proposal as being even more severe than the first version, especially when it comes to eroding insurance benefits.
Still, she suggested Democratic critics are being helped by impatient Republicans who sunk their own chances at success when they scheduled the first repeal vote on the seventh anniversary of ObamaCare’s enactment without the support to pass it.
Now, Pelosi said, they may do it again.
“What they did [last month] was totally mean-spirited, which is to say, ‘We’re going to bring up a bill, sight-unseen, ready-or-not, on the seventh anniversary of when President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act. They totally empowered us, because they were completely not ready. ... Now they’re bringing up the same bill,” Pelosi said. “A great Texan, Ann Richards, used to say, ‘You can put lipstick on a sow and call her Monique, and she’s still a pig.’
“That’s what this bill is. It’s the same terrible bill.”
Negotiated by Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), the revised legislation aims to address conservative concerns that the federal government would still be too involved in insurance markets. The new proposal would allow states to apply for waivers that allow insurance companies to opt out of coverage requirements created by ObamaCare.
Pelosi said the change is “a terrible thing,” making the bill a “nonstarter” in the eyes of Democrats.
“They’re called essential for a reason,” she said, referring to ObamaCare’s "essential" minimum coverage requirements.
What happens next is unclear. Meadows and MacArthur have yet to translate their proposal into legislative language, and some Republican centrists are likely to balk at the rollback of certain coverage guarantees, raising doubts that the new version will be more popular than the first.
Additionally, Congress has just three days next week to work on a government spending bill ahead of an April 28 deadline, leaving little time for GOP leaders to tack on an additional vote as significant as healthcare reform.
Pelosi said Republicans have backed themselves into a corner.
“They’re in a lose, lose, lose situation,” she said. “They lose if they pass it, because the American people will know what the impact is on them. ... They lose if they bring it up and don’t pass it, because their members have walked the plank and still are not able to go home and say, ‘We repealed the Affordable Care Act.’ ... And then if they pull it again ... they’re in trouble.
“So they’ve painted themselves into a bad situation.”