GOP senator decries 'mythical' House ObamaCare strategy

GOP senator decries 'mythical' House ObamaCare strategy
© Greg Nash

Sen. Tom CottonTom CottonHouse bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance Republicans jockey for position on immigration The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Ark.) on Monday pushed back on Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanThe Hill Interview: Budget Chair Black sticks around for now Gun proposal picks up GOP support GOP lawmaker Tim Murphy to retire at end of term MORE’s (R-Wis.) plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare in three phases, calling it “politicians’ talk.”

In addition to passing the current GOP replacement measure in the Senate with the 50 votes required by budget reconciliation, Ryan has pointed to the Trump administration’s actions on its own as Phase 2. Additional legislation under a 60-vote threshold in the Senate would serve as Phase 3. 

Asked about Ryan’s message on “The Laura Ingraham Show,” Cotton responded: “Let me just say this, Laura, about this so-called three-phase process. That’s just not going to happen. That’s just politicians’ talk.” 

Cotton noted it is doubtful that Senate Democrats would join efforts in phase 3, which they would have to in order to reach 60 votes. 

ADVERTISEMENT
“Phase 3 is some imaginary bill that might pass with Democratic support,” Cotton said. “Well if we had Democratic support we wouldn’t need Phase 2 and Phase 3, we would just be passing a bill right now with Democrats and more than 60 votes. That’s why it’s important that we get this bill right, because we have no guarantees about what might happen in the mythical Phase 2 and Phase 3.”

Cotton has been critical of the current GOP legislation in the House and wants to slow the process down.

His comments highlight the tough path for the legislation in the Senate, if it can pass the House first. 

House Republican leaders have been pointing to additional legislation under “Phase 3” as a way to try to reassure objecting conservatives that more steps are coming. 

Cotton also pushed back on Ryan calling the bill in the House a “binary choice.”

“This legislation has a lot of flaws in it; we can fix those flaws if we take a deliberative approach,” Cotton said. “But it is not a binary choice at this moment that we have to vote on this bill in this kind of rushed fashion, otherwise we will never repeal ObamaCare.”

Cotton’s home state of Arkansas expanded Medicaid under ObamaCare and has seen a sharp drop in the uninsured rate. 

Cotton, though, said that he largely likes the Medicaid reforms in the House bill to bring down costs over time. 

His problems, he said, are with the changes to the individual market for private insurance.

Like many House conservatives, he warned that the current bill would not repeal ObamaCare regulations that he says are driving up the cost of insurance. House leaders counter that those regulations, like requirements on what a plan must cover, cannot be repealed through the fast-track reconciliation process. 

“The individual insurance market provisions, though, I’m afraid are simply not going to bring down the price of health insurance premiums,” Cotton said. “They might in fact accelerate the increases, so we need to take a much deeper look at all the regulations of ObamaCare that are primarily responsible for driving up the price of premiums.”