GOP leaders to brief members on ObamaCare challenge response

GOP leaders to brief members on ObamaCare challenge response
© Greg Nash

Republican congressional leaders on Wednesday will brief members about their party’s long-awaited response to a potential Supreme Court ruling against ObamaCare, aides confirmed Wednesday.

The House and Senate will hold separate meetings to discuss the latest planning efforts for the case, King v. Burwell, which could erase health insurance subsidies for people in at least 34 states.

Neither briefing will include the rollout of a final bill, aides said.

“This will be a discussion on the progress the working group and leadership have made on a response plan. You should not expect a final plan to be released today,” Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanRepublicans are avoiding gun talks as election looms The Hill's 12:30 Report Flake to try to force vote on DACA stopgap plan MORE (R-Wis.), wrote in an email.  

“We're just going to talk about different options. We've still got to wait to see what the Supreme Court rules,” Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoThe 14 GOP senators who voted against Trump’s immigration framework Overnight Energy: Senate panel advances Trump pick for EPA No. 2 | Pruitt questions ‘assumptions’ on climate | Dems want Pruitt recused from climate rule review Senate panel advances Trump pick for No. 2 official at EPA MORE (Wyo.), who is leading the Senate Republican response, said Wednesday morning. “Nothing's going to be introduced until after there's a ruling because we want to make sure we can fine-tune anything to comply with the ruling.”

He said the House and Senate have been talking to each other but have not yet agreed on a unified plan. “We've been meeting frequently with the House and we're all closer and closer to a unified plan, but we have to wait to see what the Supreme Court says,” he said. 

Senate Republicans will be discussing their plans at a lunch Wednesday; the House meets later in the afternoon. 

“The House is a bigger body, so there may be some people who haven't participated as much. So people want to just get an opportunity before the court ruling comes out,” Barrasso said. 

One of the major questions about the plan is the nature and extent of the temporary assistance that would be provided to people losing their subsidies. Senate Republican leadership supports a plan from Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonTrump spars with GOP lawmakers on steel tariffs Overnight Regulation: Trump unveils budget | Sharp cuts proposed for EPA, HHS | Trump aims to speed environmental reviews | Officials propose repealing most of methane leak rule Trump budget seeks savings through ObamaCare repeal MORE (R-Wis.) to extend the subsidies through 2017 while repealing the law’s requirements to have and offer insurance. Some House conservatives have expressed more skepticism, though others are open to the idea.  

Barrasso said House chairmen he is working with are supportive of temporary assistance. 

“We continue to work with the chairmen of the committees, who are very supportive of that, I think that's one of the things they're going to discuss today with their members,” he said.  

Ryan said on Fox News Sunday this week that the “plan will involve making sure that people have assistance as we transition and give people freedom from ObamaCare.” 

Rep. John FlemingJohn Calvin FlemingCoast Guard suspends search for missing Ohio plane Freedom Caucus member to bring up bill on impeaching IRS chief GOP seeks to make it 52 MORE (R-La.), who was tasked with heading up a separate working group on the court case in the conservative House Freedom Caucus, objected this month to the main group led by Ryan meeting in “secret.”  

Both Ryan and Barrasso have been charged with crafting their chambers’ contingency plan for King v. Burwell, which could eliminate the ObamaCare subsidies for 6.4 million people.

Separately, the House GOP Doctors Caucus has also been meeting about the case, including an hourlong discussion on Tuesday, Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) said.

While some states have prepared fallback plans, most are counting on Congress to prevent a massive exodus from health insurance plans around the country if people can no longer afford to pay their premiums.

GOP leaders decided this month not to release full legislation before the ruling, which is expected in late June, and said they would only roll out their bill if the court rules against the Obama administration.

The GOP leaders' meetings on Wednesday were first reported by The Associated Press.

Barrasso, who has met with dozens of senators since planning began in January, has said he supports temporarily extending subsidies until a GOP replacement can be rolled out.  

Ryan, who has been meeting privately with two other GOP chairman, has not disclosed many details of that group's planning but said he will provide “a bridge” away from ObamaCare. He previously said that he planned to introduce a bill that is fully scored by the Congressional Budget Office before the ruling.

But with the party still divided on extending the subsidies, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said recently that no legislation would be introduced until after the ruling.

Updated at 11:32 a.m.