Reid: More funding needed to prevent ObamaCare from becoming 'train wreck'

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSenate Republicans signal openness to working with Biden Mellman: The likely voter sham Bottom line MORE (D-Nev.) says he shares colleagues’ concerns that the Affordable Care Act could become a “train wreck” if it’s not implemented properly.

Reid warned that people will not be able to choose health insurance plans on government health exchanges if federal authorities lack the resources to set them up and educate the public.

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“Max said unless we implement this properly it’s going to be a train wreck, and I agree with him,” Reid said, echoing a warning delivered last month by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusBottom line Bottom line The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation MORE (D-Mont.).

Reid warned the federal government is not spending enough money to implement the law because of Republican opposition to ObamaCare.

“Here’s what we have now, we have the menu but we don’t have any way to get to the menu,” Reid said.

Reid made his comments during an hour-long interview on "The Rusty Humphries Show" broadcast Wednesday afternoon from Las Vegas.

The shortage of funding to implement the law has forced President Obama to shift funds from other parts of the law.

“The president is taking money — I wish we had the money just to do this on its own, but he’s agreed, he’s determined he’s going to take money from some of the other things that he feels are less important in the healthcare bill and put it on letting you and others know what’s in the bill,” Reid told a caller to the show.

Reid defended the need for the law, which dramatically expanded federal healthcare subsidies for the uninsured.

“I believe that a country of our size, the only superpower left in the world — it’s not right that we have 50-60 million people … with no health insurance,” he said. “We have to have a program where health insurance shouldn’t go to people who are rich, people who are upper-middle class. I believe the middle class and people below the middle class deserve to go to the hospital when they’re sick.”

Reid said he was well familiar with the law, which spanned as long as 2,000 pages when it was a bill, before it passed.

“Of course I read it. I didn’t sit down on a Friday evening and read it. This legislation was drafted over a period of months and months,” he said. “I can pass a test on it. I knew the law pretty well.”


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Many lawmakers were not familiar with its details when they voted on it, and then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) famously declared that Congress needed to pass the law to find out what was in it.

Baucus sounded an alarm about the implementation of the healthcare law last week.

"I just see a huge train wreck coming down," he told Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mike Roman says 3M on track to deliver 2 billion respirators globally and 1 billion in US by end of year; US, Pfizer agree to 100M doses of COVID-19 vaccine that will be free to Americans The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former HHS Secretary Sebelius gives Trump administration a D in handling pandemic; Oxford, AstraZeneca report positive dual immunity results from early vaccine trial Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Kathleen Sebelius MORE at a hearing. "You and I have discussed this many times, and I don't see any results yet."

Many conservatives have criticized the law as a government takeover of the healthcare industry.

Reid disagrees with this view but he conceded Wednesday that the executive branch has grabbed too much power in Washington and suggested a requirement that all laws be allowed to expire after 10 years to give Congress an opportunity to reevaluate them.

“One of the things I pushed for many years is laws should sunset after ten years. That the only way  — that in fact I introduced legislation, after ten years you would have to reauthorize the legislation — we haven’t done that and think that’s something we should consider,” he said.

Reid noted that he and former Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.) worked together on the Congressional Review Act, which empowers Congress to disapprove new federal regulations.

“The White House over the last 30 years, maybe more, has been taking away too much power from the legislative branch,” he said. “I’d be happy to talk about earmarks, which is one example — this is only a power-grab by the White House.”

Reid pledged to live under the rules of the Affordable Care Act that apply to ordinary citizens.

Reid acknowledged, however, that he is negotiating with Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLongtime House parliamentarian to step down Five things we learned from this year's primaries Bad blood between Pelosi, Meadows complicates coronavirus talks MORE (R-Ohio) to alter the law’s treatment of congressional staff.

“Right now there’s a conflict, and we’re trying to work that out,” he said.

Updated at 6:41 p.m.