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 BradyTexas governor, top lawmakers tell Trump not to use hurricane relief funds to build border wall Trump on declaring national emergency: 'Not going to do it so fast' Dems look to chip away at Trump tax reform law 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 CornynTrump tells GOP senators he’s sticking to Syria and Afghanistan pullout  Texas governor, top lawmakers tell Trump not to use hurricane relief funds to build border wall The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s attorney general pick passes first test 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 ThuneRove warns Senate GOP: Don't put only focus on base Leaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight Senate advances measure bucking Trump on Russia sanctions 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 McConnellSunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Senate to take up Trump's border-immigration plan next week Trump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback 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 PaulPressure mounts for Trump to reconsider Syria withdrawal House Republicans call for moving State of the Union to Senate chamber GOP rep: 'Rand Paul is giving the president bad advice' on Afghanistan and Syria MORE (Ky.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeHillicon Valley: Trump AG pick signals new scrutiny on tech giants | Wireless providers in new privacy storm | SEC brings charges in agency hack | Facebook to invest 0M in local news AG pick Barr wants closer scrutiny of Silicon Valley 'behemoths' Grassroots political participation is under attack in Utah and GOP is fighting back 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 CollinsTrump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback The Memo: Concern over shutdown grows in Trump World Overnight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal 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 GrassleyDem calls for Cohen to testify before Senate panel over explosive report Senate Republicans eye rules change to speed Trump nominees IRS shutdown plan fails to quell worries 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 McCainOvernight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal Bipartisan senators reintroduce bill to prevent Trump from withdrawing from NATO Mark Kelly considering Senate bid as Arizona Dems circle McSally 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.