Schumer puts GOP on notice over ObamaCare repeal

Schumer puts GOP on notice over ObamaCare repeal
© Getty

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerOn The Money: Yellen touts 'whole-of-economy' plan to fight climate change | Senate GOP adopts symbolic earmark ban, digs in on debt limit Hillicon Valley: Tech companies duke it out at Senate hearing | Seven House Republicans vow to reject donations from Big Tech Lawmakers reintroduce bill to invest billions to compete with China in tech MORE (D-N.Y.) has made it crystal clear: If Republicans repeal ObamaCare without immediately implementing a plan to replace it, Democrats will not help them out of a pickle down the road.   

Senate Democratic sources familiar with Schumer’s thinking say he will not engage in any negotiations to pass a watered-down version of the landmark healthcare reform law if Republicans unilaterally force its repeal first under special budgetary rules. 

“That’s not a close call. They’re doing something so extraordinary reckless. You cannot reward hostage taking,” a Democratic senator said. 


The Democratic senator said Republicans have refused to work with President Obama for six years to come up with fixes to improve the law because they wanted to heighten its unpopularity and score political points.

Now, even if the GOP can secure a repeal through the budget reconciliation process – which requires only a majority – they’ll need support from at least eight Democrats to hit the 60 votes needed to pass replacement legislation.

The senator said Schumer’s view and the prevailing view in the Democratic Caucus is that they should not lift a finger to help Republicans out of a political mess if they repeal the healthcare reform law without having a replacement ready to avert severe market disruptions.

“If they want to rip healthcare away from 22 million Americans, they don’t get to blame us for not cobbling something back together,” the lawmaker said. 

Schumer believes Republicans will inflict a massive political wound on themselves if they repeal ObamaCare’s most popular provisions – such as the ban on insurance companies discriminating against people with preexisting conditions and the Medicaid expansion – and fail to come up with adequate alternatives.

Schumer told colleagues on the Senate floor Wednesday evening that Democrats would work with Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act or even pass a comprehensive reform bill replacing it – under certain conditions.

“So long as it covers as many people as the ACA, so long as it helps bring healthcare costs down, so long as it doesn’t move our healthcare system backward,” he said. 

Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWhen it comes to Georgia's voting law, keep politics out of business Pelosi to offer even split on 9/11-style commission to probe Capitol riot Senate GOP crafts outlines for infrastructure counter proposal MORE (R-Ky.) acknowledged at a press conference after Election Day that Republicans will need Democratic support to enact legislation replacing ObamaCare.

“What the American people are looking for is results. And to get results in the Senate, as all of you know, it requires some Democratic participation and cooperation,” McConnell said one day after the election.

But Democrats are warning that if McConnell wants to replace ObamaCare, he needs to negotiate with them now — not after a one-sided repeal effort is over.

“They are using an inherently partisan process in my view to get an ideological trophy,” Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Tech companies duke it out at Senate hearing | Seven House Republicans vow to reject donations from Big Tech Overnight Energy: Biden will aim to cut US emissions in half by 2030 | Oil and gas leasing pause on public lands will last at least through June Senate Democrats introduce bill to reform energy tax credits MORE (Ore.), the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, said of Republican efforts to use the budget process to repeal ObamaCare.

Wyden said he would not participate in the Republican effort to overhaul the nation’s healthcare sector as it’s now planned. 

“People are going to get hurt,” he said. “If they want to set this whole thing aside, the partisan agenda that is about capturing their ideological trophy from the campaign trail and talk about ways to approve it, I’ve always been clear [about supporting] that.

“That’s why I’m not going to say, ‘Fine, repeal it, we’ll look at something that may happen down the road,’” he added.

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineSenators in the dark on parliamentarian's decision Progressives put Democrats on defense Senators reintroduce bill to block NATO withdrawal MORE (D-Va.), Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPelosi on power in DC: 'You have to seize it' Cuba readies for life without Castro Chelsea Clinton: Pics of Trump getting vaccinated would help him 'claim credit' MORE’s running mate, spoke for most of his Democratic colleagues when he said, “The time for negotiation is now.”

The Senate Republican Caucus is now in state of heightened anxiety over the possibility they may be headed into what Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerFox News inks contributor deal with former Democratic House member Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain Roy Blunt won't run for Senate seat in 2022 MORE (R-Texas) calls a “box canyon,” or a dead end.

The American Medical Association, the largest and best known association of doctors, warned Congress in a letter earlier this month that lawmakers should not dismantle the law without laying out “in reasonable detail what will replace current policies.”

While House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOn The Money: Senate confirms Gensler to lead SEC | Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week | Top Republican on House tax panel to retire Trump faces test of power with early endorsements Lobbying world MORE (R-Wis.) and President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpUS gives examples of possible sanctions relief to Iran GOP lawmaker demands review over FBI saying baseball shooting was 'suicide by cop' House passes bill aimed at stopping future Trump travel ban MORE have promised repeal and replacement would happen quickly and nearly simultaneously, some GOP senators are showing concern about the pace. 

Corker, Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanHarris casts tiebreaking vote to advance Biden nominee The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After historic verdict, Chauvin led away in handcuffs How to save the Amazon rainforest MORE (R-Ohio), Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate locks in hate crimes deal, setting up Thursday passage Bipartisan group of senators holds immigration talks amid border surge Senate GOP keeps symbolic earmark ban MORE (R-Maine), Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiHarris casts tiebreaking vote to advance Biden nominee Bipartisan group of senators holds immigration talks amid border surge Senate GOP keeps symbolic earmark ban MORE (R-Alaska) unveiled this past week an amendment to the budget resolution that would have extended the deadline for committees to come up with ObamaCare repeal legislation from Jan. 27 to March 3.

But McConnell was concerned that growing dissension in his ranks posed a risk to passage of the budget resolution, the first step toward repeal. He scrambled to quell the concerns, according to lawmakers who discussed strategy with him at a meeting Wednesday.

The GOP leader told colleagues “to stop obsessing” about whether repeal legislation would also be labeled as a replacement measure, according to a GOP senator who participated in the conversation. 

He also urged them to stop fretting about whether the committees of jurisdiction would be instructed to come up with an ObamaCare repeal plan by the Jan. 27 or the March 3 target. A second Republican source confirmed the conversation.  

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation - CDC news on gatherings a step toward normality Lummis adopts 'laser eyes' meme touting Bitcoin Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes MORE (R-Wyo.) backed up McConnell at the private meeting by explaining to colleagues that Jan. 27 was the earliest date by which the committees could report their plan for repealing ObamaCare, not a deadline.

After receiving these assurances from McConnell and Enzi, Corker, Portman and their allies withdrew the amendment

"I know a date has been put in this reconciliation of Jan. 27, and we realize that is not a real date," Corker said. "It's a placeholder."