Top Republican nixes idea of pairing ObamaCare repeal with tax reform

Top Republican nixes idea of pairing ObamaCare repeal with tax reform
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynWhite House officials expect short-term funding bill to avert shutdown Spending bill delay raises risk of partial government shutdown support GOP leaders to Trump: Leave Mueller alone MORE (R-Texas) on Tuesday said Congress should move onto tax reform and not try to pair it with a new plan to repeal ObamaCare.

Cornyn signaled the widespread GOP fear that adding a health-care debate to the tax bill will only bog down a reform package that is President Trump’s new top priority.

Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, said he does not support combining tax reform and ObamaCare repeal in a single budget reconciliation measure that would allow the GOP to protect their bill from a Democratic filibuster.

Separately, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus also said he opposed the idea, saying it could "interfere potentially with tax reform."

"Since we have fumbled at least twice now on health care, to include it and make tax reform contingent on us getting across the finish line on health care, I wouldn't be in favor unless we can keep it on parallel tracks," Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDems aim to turn ObamaCare hikes into election weapon Steyer brings his push to impeach Trump to town halls across the nation Trump formally sends Pompeo nomination to Senate MORE (S.C.) and other Republicans have floated the combined package as a way for the GOP to keep its dream of ObamaCare repeal alive.

Legislation introduced by Graham and Sen. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyHere is a health care proposal that could actually work Senators target 'gag clauses' that hide potential savings on prescriptions Kimmel: Political pleas on health care have cost me commercially MORE (R-La.) does not have the support to pass the Senate, and existing budget rules that prevent Democrats from filibustering the GOP’s ObamaCare repeal bill expire on Sept. 30.

“I think the work should continue,” Cornyn said of the health-care bill. “Sen. Cassidy and Sen. Graham have come up with a good idea but one that we haven’t had time to socialize yet.”

He noted that Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care: What to expect in omnibus | HIV expert to head CDC | Sessions issues memo on death penalty for drug cases HIV expert named CDC director GOP lawmakers blast Dems for opposing ObamaCare fix MORE (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySpending bill would double child care funding for low-income families Funding bill gives billion boost for NIH medical research Spending bill prevents employers from pocketing tips under tip-pooling rule MORE (Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the panel, are also working on legislation to stabilize the individual insurance markets.

Cornyn said Senate Republicans will decide at a private lunch meeting whether to hold a vote on the Graham-Cassidy bill, even though it’s clear the measure lacks the votes to pass.

“I don’t know how it all ends,” Cornyn said. “I know the work is going to continue but I think we need to turn to tax reform while that work [on health care] continues.”

Other Republicans on Tuesday said they’ll leave it up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCollins: 'Extremely disappointing' ObamaCare fix left out of spending deal House poised to vote on .3T spending bill Budowsky: Stop Trump from firing Mueller MORE (R-Ky.) whether to hold a vote on Graham-Cassidy this week.

“That’s a call for leadership, I do not believe the votes are there,” said Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.). “I think it’s time for us to move to tax reform. We clearly have to deal with the Affordable Care Act but I think we’ll have time to do that after we’ve done tax reform.”

Peter Sullivan contributed to this story.