GOP looks for ObamaCare path as right lashes out

Republicans are looking for a path forward on ObamaCare amid conservative opposition to key elements of their plan.  

The leaders of the two top conservative groups in the House, Reps. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), on Monday said they could not support a leaked draft GOP plan because it featured tax credits to help people buy coverage, which they warn is creating a new entitlement.

The two groups have enough votes to sink a bill, meaning their opposition would doom legislation.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) on Tuesday distanced GOP leaders from the leaked legislation.

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“That draft is not even representative of where we are,” Scalise said.

He added that leadership has been in “direct conversations with the chairman of the [Republican Study Committee] as well as others about the best way to build a consensus to pass a bill to gut ObamaCare.”

The conservative objections to refundable tax credits pose a major problem for GOP leadership, as those credits are a central aspect of the party's plan to repeal ObamaCare but provide people with insurance coverage.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanConservatives leery of FBI deal on informant Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — House passes 'right to try' drug bill | Trump moves to restrict abortion referrals Hillicon Valley: Trump claims 'no deal' to help Chinese company ZTE | Congress briefed on election cyber threats | Mueller mystery - Where's indictment for DNC hack? | Zuckerberg faces tough questions in Europe MORE (R-Wis.) defended the idea of tax credits and the House’s approach in general to reporters on Tuesday, saying it looks like a previous plan from former Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), now the secretary of Health and Human Services.

“The Price plan was considered the conservative gold standard at the time last year,” Ryan said. “Many conservatives co-sponsored that plan. That plan looks a lot like what we’re working on right now.”

Conservatives don’t appear to be buying that argument.

Meadows and two other conservatives, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSarah Sanders: ‘Democrats are losing their war against women in the Trump administration’ Kentucky Dems look to vault themselves in deep-red district Overnight Defense: Senate confirms Haspel as CIA chief | Trump offers Kim 'protections' if he gives up nukes | Dem amendments target Trump military parade MORE (R-Ky.), bashed the leadership plan in a call with reporters Tuesday.

Meadows criticized the refundable tax credits, as well as a plan to start taxing generous employer-sponsored health plans that would be used to pay for the cost of the credits.

Jordan said the opposition from conservatives was not jeopardizing the repeal effort.

“We actually think you should do what you said you would do,” he said, referring to GOP vows to repeal as much of ObamaCare as possible.

Paul and fellow conservative Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzPoll: Cruz leads O'Rourke by 7 points Freedom Caucus bruised but unbowed in GOP primary fights Five races to watch in the Texas runoffs MORE (R-Texas) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA Senate panel advances Trump's CIA nominee Doug Jones to oppose Haspel as CIA chief MORE (R-Utah) said Monday that they will vote against a repeal bill that preserves more of the law than a far-reaching bill from 2015.

Those three have enough votes to defeat a measure in the Senate, but their demands, if met, could cost a Senate bill the support of centrist Republicans.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTeacher defeats Kentucky state House majority leader in GOP primary Conservatives leery of FBI deal on informant Lobbying world MORE (R-Ky.) acknowledged Tuesday that congressional Republicans and President Trump need to get in sync on their ObamaCare strategy — but they aren't there yet.

“The goal is for the administration, the House and the Senate to be in the same place. We're not there yet,” he told reporters.

Meadows said he had not spoken to leadership this week about his ObamaCare concerns.

“I've had ongoing conversations with leadership over the last couple of months,” he said. “I don't see any real movement in terms of their position on tax credits.” 

Scalise predicted that at the end of the day, Republicans would rally around the final repeal-and-replacement legislation and pass it.

“We will keep working with our members until we finally pass the bill,” the majority whip said. “We will pass the bill.”

— Jessie Hellmann contributed.