This week: GOP picks up the pieces after healthcare defeat
© Greg Nash

Republicans will try to figure out what comes next this week after the House GOP’s embarrassing setback in trying to pass long-promised legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

Their seven-year campaign pledge to get rid of the 2010 law suffered a major blow after GOP leaders and President Trump couldn’t stop a revolt from conservatives and centrists.

With the GOP healthcare plan dead, Republicans are quickly setting their sights on another challenging campaign promise: tax reform.


Within hours after GOP leaders pulled the healthcare bill on Friday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyStimulus checks debate now focuses on size, eligibility Pelosi huddles with chairmen on surprise billing but deal elusive Trump signs executive orders aimed at lowering drug prices MORE (R-Texas) appeared on Fox News to talk up tax reform.

“We’re going to pivot straight to this and just roll forward,” Brady said in an interview with Fox News’s Neil Cavuto. 

“I think there’s a stronger momentum for tax reform. And I think the key is to not linger on [the healthcare defeat], and just go straight ahead now,” Brady said.

That said, Republicans insist they’re not completely abandoning efforts to reform the healthcare system.

“It just shows that our first attempt didn’t work. This was not our last attempt. There will have to be other actions,” said Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.). 

“I think it’s a smart thing for us to move away from it now. Let’s get some rest. Think about it some more. Watch the developments as these ObamaCare exchanges fail across the country, and ask our Democratic friends, ‘What are you willing to do to fix this?’” Byrne added.

Senate Republicans also signaled early on that they aren’t planning to try to move their own separate legislation if the House failed to clear its repeal and replace bill. 

"I'm not aware of any backup plan," Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSkepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal Republicans uncomfortably playing defense Negotiators hit gas on coronavirus talks as frustration mounts MORE (Texas), the Senate's No. 2 Republican, told The Hill. "I think our plan B is the same as our plan A." 

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneThe Hill's 12:30 Report: White House, Dems debate coronavirus relief package The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Key 48 hours loom as negotiators push for relief deal Trump dismisses legal questions on GOP nomination speech at White House MORE (R-S.D.)—the No. 3 Republican—separately told reporters that while they would probably circle back to healthcare the timing would depend on when the House could pass a bill. 

Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks Overnight Health Care: Ohio governor tests positive for COVID-19 ahead of Trump's visit | US shows signs of coronavirus peak, but difficult days lie ahead | Trump: COVID-19 vaccine may be ready 'right around' Election Day MORE also offered no suggestion on Friday evening the Senate will now try to move its own legislation. 

“Obamacare is failing the American people and I deeply appreciate the efforts of the Speaker and the president to keep our promise to repeal and replace it," he said in a brief. "I share their disappointment that this effort came up short."

But that didn’t stop GOP senators from quickly pitching alternatives, stressing that lawmakers needed to keep working to repeal and replace ObamaCare—though there were early signs of division.

GOP Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump-backed Hagerty wins Tennessee GOP Senate primary Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus MORE (Ky.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOvernight Defense: Air Force general officially becomes first African American service chief | Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure | State Department's special envoy for Iran is departing the Trump administration Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure Trump signs major conservation bill into law MORE (Utah) initially suggested that Republicans stick with a party-line approach. 

"We will begin working collaboratively here in the Senate and with our friends in the House to produce a bill that will get 51 votes in the Senate and 216 in the House," Lee said in a statement. 

Paul separately predicted that they would soon take up "full repeal," praising conservatives for rejecting "ObamaCare Lite."

But GOP Sens. Bill Cassidy (La.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus New polls show tight races for Graham, McConnell McConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill MORE (Maine) pitched their legislation, which would allow states that like ObamaCare to keep it, as a path forward that could help win over both both parties. 

“I urge my colleagues, both Republicans and Democrats, to take a look at the legislation Senator Bill Cassidy and I have introduced, which would expand access to affordable health care in a way that provides more choices and helps to restrain costs,” Collins said in a statement. 

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyMcConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill GOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe On The Money: Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions | Pandemic reveals flaws of unemployment insurance programs | Survey finds nearly one-third of rehired workers laid off again MORE (R-Iowa) also urged his colleagues to review the Cassidy-Collins bill, adding that “major social policy change in US must be bipartisan.”

Internet privacy regulations

The House is expected to vote this week to overturn internet privacy rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last year. 

The rules require internet service providers to obtain customers’ permission before using their personal information for consumer data and online advertisements. They mandated internet service providers needed consent before using and sharing data like location tracking, browsing data and app usage.

The Senate voted to eliminate the rules last week in a party-line vote. The measure will head to President Trump's desk upon approval by the House.

Lawmakers can rescind late-term Obama administration rules under a law known as the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to overturn rules within 60 days after they are issued.

Trump has already signed into law multiple measures to overturn Obama regulations, including ones that required the Social Security Administration to provide information about mentally unfit people to the national background check system for gun purchases and protected waterways from coal mining waste. 

Trump tax returns

Democrats are expected to force more votes this week to demand President Trump’s tax returns.

They’ve already triggered four House floor votes in as many weeks on resolutions calling on the House Ways and Means Committee to request a decade’s worth of Trump’s tax returns. Another vote this week is likely, since Democrats plan to keep doing them until Tax Day on April 18.

Democrats are hoping to put pressure on Republicans who have called for Trump’s tax returns to be made public, but who are declining to force the issue in Congress.

In addition, the House Ways and Means Committee will vote Tuesday on a resolution authored by Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) directing the Treasury Department to provide the House with Trump’s tax returns.

Pascrell is turning to a procedure known as a resolution of inquiry that would automatically trigger a floor vote if it’s not considered in committee within 14 legislative days. 

The resolution is expected to be rejected by the Ways and Means Committee. Another Democratic resolution of inquiry demanding documents about Trump’s potential business conflicts of interest and Russia ties was similarly defeated in the House Judiciary Committee last month.

NATO membership

The Senate will take up a treaty allowing Montenegro to join NATO after a vote on the measure was blocked earlier this month. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) teed up an initial vote on Montenegro’s membership into the international body for Monday evening at 5:30 p.m. 

If senators drag out debate over the measure it could eat up the Senate’s floor schedule into early Wednesday. 

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' Mark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Prominent conservatives question Jerry Falwell Jr. vacation photo MORE (R-Ariz.) tried to get unanimous consent to schedule a vote on the treaty earlier this month, but was blocked by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). 

Under Senate rules any one senator is able to object to a unanimous consent request. 

The libertarian lawmaker said in a statement that he blocked McCain’s request over concerns about the debt, warning that the United States is already stretched too thin militarily.

“Currently, the United States has troops in dozens of countries and is actively fighting in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen (with the occasional drone strike in Pakistan). In addition, the United States is pledged to defend 28 countries in NATO," he said at the time. 

He added that "it is unwise to expand the monetary and military obligations of the United States given the burden of our $20 trillion debt.”

Under NATO's Article 5, member states agree to defend any NATO country that is threatened by force. 

But McCain blasted Paul on the Senate floor saying that the “senator from Kentucky is now working for Vladimir Putin."

"He has no justification for his objection to having a small nation be part of NATO that is under assault from the Russians," McCain said.

McCain—who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee—predicted during the 2017 Brussels Forum on Friday that the Senate would approve the treaty this week.