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 CornynGOP senator: ObamaCare fix could be in funding bill Senate GOP running out of options to stop Moore Texas Republicans slam White House over disaster relief request 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.

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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 GrahamAlabama election has GOP racing against the clock Graham on Moore: 'We are about to give away a seat' key to Trump's agenda Tax plans show Congress putting donors over voters 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 CassidyTrump met Senate Republicans on ObamaCare fix Senate GOP tax bill will include repeal of ObamaCare mandate Alabama GOP chair warns party officials against write-in campaign 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 AlexanderGOP senator: ObamaCare fix could be in funding bill Collins: Pass bipartisan ObamaCare bills before mandate repeal Murkowski: ObamaCare fix not a precondition for tax vote MORE (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayGOP senator: ObamaCare fix could be in funding bill Collins: Pass bipartisan ObamaCare bills before mandate repeal Murkowski: ObamaCare fix not a precondition for tax vote 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 McConnellAlabama election has GOP racing against the clock McConnell PAC demands Moore return its money Klobuchar taking over Franken's sexual assault bill 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.