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 CornynRussians' indictment casts shadow ahead of Trump-Putin summit Top GOP senator: Trump should be 'clear-eyed' going into meeting with Putin Doug Jones walks tightrope on Supreme Court nominee 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 GrahamOvernight Health Care: Watchdog finds Tom Price improperly used funds on flights | Ex-Novartis CEO sent drug pricing proposal to Cohen | HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts: report Senate takes symbolic shot at Trump tariffs 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 CassidyGOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE Lawmakers pitch dueling plans for paid family leave New push to break deadlock on paid family leave 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 AlexanderSens introduce bipartisan bill matching Zinke proposed maintenance backlog fix Supreme Court vacancy throws Senate battle into chaos Overnight Health Care: Anti-abortion groups see chance to overturn Roe v. Wade with Kennedy retirement | HHS watchdog to probe detention center conditions | VA pick vows to oppose privatization MORE (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDems launch pressure campaign over migrant families Jane Fonda: Kavanaugh confirmation would be a 'catastrophe' Dems rip Trump DOJ nominee who represented Russian bank 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 McConnellDoug Jones walks tightrope on Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh gets questionnaires for confirmation hearing Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick 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.