ObamaCare repeal markups stretch into the night

ObamaCare repeal markups stretch into the night
© Greg Nash

Lawmakers in the House are set for a late night as two committees continue markups of legislation that would repeal and replace ObamaCare.

Democrats are proposing a slew of amendments to the legislation in an attempt to slow the process down and force Republicans to take tough votes. 

On the Ways and Means Committee, Democrats have offered a range of provisions rejected by the GOP that highlighted issues like the possibility of people losing coverage.

In the Energy and Commerce committee, Democrats dragged the process out by requiring the entire bill to be read aloud and refusing to offer their amendments.

Ranking member Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said the Democrats have about 100 amendments to offer, meaning there is a possibility the markup could last for days. 

Democrats harped on Republicans for calling a markup without a score from the Congressional Budget Office, meaning they are voting without an analysis of how much the bill will cost or how many people would lose coverage.

“I would think that people would want to know if their constituents would lose their insurance before they vote for this bill today,” said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.).

Democrats argued that Republicans wanted to move forward without a score because they know the CBO’s estimate would cast a bad light on their healthcare plan.

"You’re fearful the CBO will provide answers to questions that you don’t like," said Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.).

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin BradyOvernight Cybersecurity: Trump tweetstorm on Russia probe | White House reportedly pushing to weaken sanctions bill | Podesta to testify before House Intel Senate expected to pass Russia sanctions bill for a second time White House pressuring House GOP to weaken Russia sanctions bill: report MORE (R-Texas) pushed back.

"We expect CBO to have a thoughtful thorough comprehensive score to us before this recommendation goes to the Budget Committee, comes to the House floor," he said.   

Republicans on the Ways and Means committee also pushed aside an amendment highlighting what Democrats called the "Trump promise" that everyone would have health insurance under a GOP plan.

The amendment from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) would have prevented the GOP ObamaCare replacement bill from taking effect until the Congressional Budget Office ensured that the bill would provide health insurance for "all taxpayers and their dependents."

The amendment was an attempt to draw attention to President Trump's comment in January to the Washington Post that a GOP plan should provide "insurance for everybody."

Republicans sidelined the amendment on parliamentary grounds, saying that it was not germane, as they did with a range of other Democratic amendments. Blumenauer said lawmakers should "give the American people the 'Trump guarantee.'"

Republicans acknowledge that their bill will cover fewer people than ObamaCare, but say that it is not trying to compete with the health law, which uses a mandate to require coverage.

"We're looking at it a different way ... because insurance is not really the end goal here," Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director, said Wednesday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

"One of the conservatives', one of the Republicans' complaints about the Affordable Care Act from the very beginning, it was a great way to get insurance and a lousy way to actually be able to go to the doctor."

While Republicans are mostly turning aside Democratic amendments to the legislation, at least one GOP amendment is expected to get consideration on Energy and Commerce. 

That amendment, from Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), would move up the end of ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion to the end of this year, rather than the end of 2019, in the current bill. That change could alienate moderates if it were to actually pass, though. 

The change to the Medicaid timeline is backed by the conservative Republican Study Committee, a bloc of conservatives in the House with roughly 170 members. 

Democrats have offered a range of other amendments, to prevent enactment of the bill if it was found to raise out of pocket health costs, to allow states to choose to keep ObamaCare and other issues. 

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) unsuccessfully offered a motion to delay the Ways and Means markup until next week, arguing that the bill is a "legislative surprise package" released just two days before the committee vote. 

"If you have nothing to hide, a week will not impair your effort," he said.

A motion to table the markup for 30 days also failed in the Energy and Commerce Committee.