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CornynJohn CornynGOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford Blumenthal: Kavanaugh nomination should be withdrawn Cornyn takes on O'Rourke over AR-15s MORE (R-Texas) on Tuesday said Congress should move onto tax reform and not try to pair it with a new plan to repeal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 GrahamTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' Graham knocks South Korea over summit with North 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 CassidyOvernight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan senators unveil proposal to crack down on surprise medical bills Outdated global postal system hurts US manufacturers MORE (R-La.)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 AlexanderOvernight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil Cruz gets help from Senate GOP in face of serious challenge from O’Rourke MORE (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayJudiciary Democrat calls for additional witnesses to testify on Kavanaugh Kavanaugh allegations set stage for Anita Hill sequel Time for action to improve government data analysis 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 McConnellSanders hits Feinstein over Kavanaugh allegations: Now it’s clear why she did nothing for months On The Money: Senate approves 4B spending bill | China imposes new tariffs on billion in US goods | Ross downplays new tariffs: 'Nobody's going to actually notice' McConnell tamps down any talk of Kavanaugh withdrawal 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.