House Republicans appear to be coalescing behind a plan that would give states the option of keeping ObamaCare subsidies if the Supreme Court rules against the healthcare law.
The plan, presented Wednesday by Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanJustice Kennedy again steps to the left Ryan: I might have voted for Brexit NRA, Planned Parenthood top Trump, Clinton in favorability MORE (R-Wis.), would give block grants to states that want them, according to lawmakers who attended a briefing. States would get to choose how to spend the money to cover people in their state. The grants would last for two years, giving the next president a chance to enact an alternative to ObamaCare.
The emerging House plan would also repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual and employer mandates, in a nod to conservatives who are pushing to scale back the law. Top members of the House Freedom Caucus and the Republican Study Committee both appeared receptive to the plan on Wednesday.
“It block-grants the money to states that opt in to our state program, and then they can set up their own exchange; they can give tax credits; they can set up health savings accounts; they can do whatever they want,” said Rep. John FlemingJohn FlemingHHS chief meets with House Republicans on abortion dispute Admin. rejects complaint that California broke abortion law The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-La.).
Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), a co-chairman of the House GOP Doctors Caucus, offered early approval for the plan because the amount in block grants offered to each state would be equal to the amount of money people in the state are now receiving in insurance subsidies.
He said he believes the approach would be particularly popular in states with both a GOP governor and legislature, such as in his home state of Tennessee. Other states, like New York, he said, could keep every part of the Affordable Care Act.
Rep. Charles BoustanyCharles BoustanyBoeing tells lawmakers sale of planes to Iran well-known part of nuclear agreement The Trail 2016: Post-Orlando maneuvers Senate campaign posts private conversation on Facebook MORE Jr. (R-La.) said the plan could include “safe harbor,” to allow people to keep their subsidies until the end of the year, when the block grants would kick in.
Boustany said that, after two years, ObamaCare would sunset as a whole, sometime in 2017.
For many members, the House briefing offered the first chance to hear details from leadership about their likely proposals, which won’t be made public unless the justices rule against the law in King v. Burwell. A decision in the case could come as early as Thursday.
While House lawmakers left their meeting describing the outlines of the plan presented to them, Senate Republicans emphasized they did not have a consensus after their separate strategy session.
Asked if Senate Republicans came to any kind of consensus, Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynGOP senator praises Supreme Court's abortion ruling This week: Zika, Puerto Rico fights loom ahead of recess Juan Williams: GOP sounds the sirens over Trump MORE (R-Texas) replied, “No.” Asked the same question separately, Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamGun-control supporters plan next steps versus NRA Bipartisan gun measure survives test vote Senate Republicans may defy NRA on guns MORE (R-S.C.) laughed and also said, “No.”
The Senate’s briefing, which was led by two GOP chairmen, Sen. John BarrassoJohn BarrassoGOP senator: Obama ‘believes he is above the law’ Republican senator expects Trump will 'embrace' GOP platform Sunday shows preview: Bernie soldiers on MORE (R-Wyo.) and Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderBipartisan gun measure survives test vote Overnight Healthcare: GOP plan marks new phase in ObamaCare fight Stoddard: The great Trump rebellion MORE (R-Tenn.), highlighted multiple proposals that have been put forward in the chamber.
Barrasso said he presented a “broad outline of what we’ve been working on with the House” that would temporarily extend healthcare subsidies through at least the 2016 elections.
“I think there’s kind of an amalgamation of plans and ideas of different members that we’ve had out there that we’re trying to put together, but at this point, it’s still a work in progress,” said Sen. John ThuneJohn ThuneWeek ahead: Senate panel takes up location data bill Republicans question Trump's trip to Scotland Short-term FAA bill would likely extend into next year, GOP chairman says MORE (R-S.D.).
He mentioned competing plans from Sens. Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonJuan Williams: GOP sounds the sirens over Trump Vulnerable Republican seeks edge on homeland security Gun-control supporters plan next steps versus NRA MORE (R-Wis.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and a group of committee chairmen.
A plan from Johnson to continue insurance subsidies through 2017 has gained support among Senate Republicans, and Barrasso has said the plan would include some form of temporary assistance. Leaving the meeting Wednesday, Sen. Richard BurrRichard BurrGun-control supporters plan next steps versus NRA GOP senator on ISIS: 'Take the fight to them' GOP senators: Brexit vote a wake-up call MORE (R-N.C.) said the plan could include some way to “grandfather” current ObamaCare subsidies.
No senator leaving the meeting mentioned the idea of providing block grants to states, even though the House presented that as its plan later in the afternoon.
Republicans say having a plan to point to would lessen the pressure they know will come from the White House to simply restore the subsidies.
“We recognize there will be a messaging war, and so the question is, how do we position ourselves, how do we posture ourselves for what will be a messaging war?” Fleming asked. “Most of us are skeptical the president will sign anything we send him.”
Updated at 7:55 p.m.