Top Republican nixes idea of pairing ObamaCare repeal with tax reform

Top Republican nixes idea of pairing ObamaCare repeal with tax reform
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynGOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration On The Money: Trump to sign border deal, declare emergency to build wall | Senate passes funding bill, House to follow | Dems promise challenge to emergency declaration Trump to sign border deal, declare national emergency MORE (R-Texas) on Tuesday said Congress should move onto tax reform and not try to pair it with a new plan to repeal ObamaCare.

Cornyn signaled the widespread GOP fear that adding a health-care debate to the tax bill will only bog down a reform package that is President Trump’s new top priority.

Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, said he does not support combining tax reform and ObamaCare repeal in a single budget reconciliation measure that would allow the GOP to protect their bill from a Democratic filibuster.

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Separately, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus also said he opposed the idea, saying it could "interfere potentially with tax reform."

"Since we have fumbled at least twice now on health care, to include it and make tax reform contingent on us getting across the finish line on health care, I wouldn't be in favor unless we can keep it on parallel tracks," Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham seeks new Rosenstein testimony after explosive McCabe interview Senate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general Graham demands testimony from former FBI acting Director McCabe MORE (S.C.) and other Republicans have floated the combined package as a way for the GOP to keep its dream of ObamaCare repeal alive.

Legislation introduced by Graham and Sen. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyIvanka Trump to meet with GOP senators to discuss paid family leave legislation Bipartisan senators ask industry for information on surprise medical bills Virginia abortion bill reignites national debate MORE (R-La.) does not have the support to pass the Senate, and existing budget rules that prevent Democrats from filibustering the GOP’s ObamaCare repeal bill expire on Sept. 30.

“I think the work should continue,” Cornyn said of the health-care bill. “Sen. Cassidy and Sen. Graham have come up with a good idea but one that we haven’t had time to socialize yet.”

He noted that Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderCongress must move forward on measure dealing with fentanyl GOP advances rules change to speed up confirmation of Trump nominees Key doctors group faces political risks on guns MORE (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Senators seek answers on surprise medical bills | Red states move to limit Medicaid expansion | Two drug companies agree to testify Senate Dems block Sasse measure meant to respond to Virginia bill DeVos's proposal to change campus sexual assault guidelines draws over 100,000 responses MORE (Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the panel, are also working on legislation to stabilize the individual insurance markets.

Cornyn said Senate Republicans will decide at a private lunch meeting whether to hold a vote on the Graham-Cassidy bill, even though it’s clear the measure lacks the votes to pass.

“I don’t know how it all ends,” Cornyn said. “I know the work is going to continue but I think we need to turn to tax reform while that work [on health care] continues.”

Other Republicans on Tuesday said they’ll leave it up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBill Kristol resurfaces video of Pence calling Obama executive action on immigration a 'profound mistake' Winners and losers in the border security deal House passes border deal, setting up Trump to declare emergency MORE (R-Ky.) whether to hold a vote on Graham-Cassidy this week.

“That’s a call for leadership, I do not believe the votes are there,” said Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.). “I think it’s time for us to move to tax reform. We clearly have to deal with the Affordable Care Act but I think we’ll have time to do that after we’ve done tax reform.”

Peter Sullivan contributed to this story.