Senate bill to repeal health reform lacks backing from Republican leaders

Senate bill to repeal health reform lacks backing from Republican leaders

Although they’ve called repeatedly for repeal of the Democrats’ new health reform law, some senior Senate Republicans have not endorsed a bill that would actually do it.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellJon Stewart rips into McConnell for saying he's 'bent out of shape' over 9/11 victim fund Jon Stewart rips into McConnell for saying he's 'bent out of shape' over 9/11 victim fund Tensions with Iran reach new stage over uranium threat MORE (Ky.), GOP Conference Chair Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderTaylor Swift thanks Cory Booker for signing Equality Act petition Taylor Swift thanks Cory Booker for signing Equality Act petition Senate health panel to move forward on package to lower health costs next week MORE (Tenn.) and Conference Vice Chair Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiHillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Hillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Klobuchar, Murkowski introduce legislation to protect consumer health data MORE (Alaska) have all argued that the reforms — passed in March without Republican support — will hike costs and erode services, and therefore should be scrapped. Yet they haven’t signed on to their party’s repeal proposal.

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That bill — just nine words long — has been endorsed by other party leaders, including Sens. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), the minority whip, and John CornynJohn CornynThis week: Democrats move funding bills as caps deal remains elusive This week: Democrats move funding bills as caps deal remains elusive Trump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' MORE (Texas), who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC).

That McConnell, Alexander and Murkowski haven’t done the same, some experts say, could erode the Republicans’ election-year message that the Democrats’ health reforms will do more harm than good.

“Unified party positions are better than divided party positions,” Julian Zelizer, a congressional expert at Princeton University, said in an e-mail. “When the GOP is not all on board with legislation,” he added, Democrats can argue “Republicans calling for repeal are on the wrong track.”

“Equally important, in an age of party unity, when divisions like this emerge it suggests [what] pollsters are saying: there is support for the healthcare bill in red America,” he said.

Jonathan Oberlander, health policy professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, said the Republicans’ repeal push could be an indicator of the split between GOP leaders and the Tea Party movement’s conservatives.

“Will the GOP leadership be able to ride the tiger and move even further rightward to [appease the Tea Partiers],” Oberlander asked, “or is this a sign of more splits to come between more pragmatic elements in the leadership and more ideological elements outside of Washington?”

The offices of McConnell and Murkowski did not respond to requests for comment. NRSC spokesman Nick Simpson said that GOP leaders “support repealing the Democrats' health care law and then replacing it with alternatives that lower costs while improving access.” He could not explain why some of those same leaders have not endorsed the repeal legislation.

From a policy standpoint, the issue is largely meaningless: The repeal bill has no chance of moving through Congress with Democrats in charge and President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaProgressive activist: Democratic nominee will 'need to ride a little bit to the center' Progressive activist: Democratic nominee will 'need to ride a little bit to the center' Juan Williams: Trump's incredible shrinking GOP MORE in the White House. But it raises an important political question in an equally important election year: How successfully can Republicans run on a platform of healthcare repeal when some of the party’s top lawmakers don’t support the bill?

The repeal issue drew headlines on Wednesday after leading House Republicans — including Minority Leader John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerTed Cruz, AOC have it right on banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists Ted Cruz, AOC have it right on banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists Rep. Amash stokes talk of campaign against Trump MORE (Ohio) and Minority Whip Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorGOP faces tough battle to become 'party of health care' 737 crisis tests Boeing's clout in Washington House Republicans find silver lining in minority MORE (Va.) — were criticized for not endorsing discharge petitions that would force a House vote on healthcare repeal. Under pressure, BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerTed Cruz, AOC have it right on banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists Ted Cruz, AOC have it right on banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists Rep. Amash stokes talk of campaign against Trump MORE and Cantor announced they would get on board.

“We are committed to repealing ObamaCare and replacing it with common-sense reforms that will lower health care costs for families and small businesses,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement, “and both petitions move us closer to that goal.”

That sounds a lot like the message from McConnell, Alexander and Murkowski in recent months.


“I can tell you with the campaign that will continue with the American people, I think the slogan will be ‘repeal and replace,’ ” McConnell told reporters in March, just after the reform bill was passed.


Earlier in the month, Alexander was asked if Republicans would run on a platform of repeal this year. “I think that’s exactly right,” he told Fox News.

Murkowski addressed the issue recently on the Senate floor.

“This law is not what the American people wanted and it's not what our president promised," she said.

“I believe that the legislation has to be repealed and it’s got to be replaced with sensible alternatives that are widely supported.”

How to repeal it, though, was left unmentioned.