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 RyanSenate defeats ObamaCare repeal measure McCain kills GOP's 'skinny' ObamaCare repeal plan Senate heading for late night ahead of ObamaCare repeal showdown 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 PaulRand PaulOvernight Defense: Military won't lift transgender ban until Trump sends directions | House passes national security spending | Russian sanctions bill heads to Trump Overnight Cybersecurity: Senate sends Russia sanctions bill to Trump | Senators unveil email privacy bill | Russia tried to spy on Macron with Facebook Senate sends Russia sanctions bill to Trump's desk 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 CruzTed CruzSenate heading for late night ahead of ObamaCare repeal showdown Two GOP senators back ObamaCare repeal after Ryan call Senate releases 'skinny' ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (R-Texas) and Mike LeeMike LeeOvernight Cybersecurity: Senate sends Russia sanctions bill to Trump | Senators unveil email privacy bill | Russia tried to spy on Macron with Facebook Overnight Tech: Driverless car bill advances in House | Bezos now world's richest person | Tech groups hail new email privacy bill How do you get lower cost drugs? Give the FDA a bigger stick 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 McConnellMitch McConnellMcConnell: 'Time to move on' after healthcare defeat Senate defeats ObamaCare repeal measure McCain kills GOP's 'skinny' ObamaCare repeal plan 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.