Finance chairman: No tool 'off the table’ in ObamaCare fight

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The head of the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday said that he wouldn't take any tool "off the table" to chip away at ObamaCare under the new GOP-controlled Congress.

Speaking from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchKey Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock Trump awards Medal of Freedom to racing industry icon Roger Penske Trump holds more Medal of Freedom ceremonies than predecessors but awards fewer medals MORE (R-Utah) laid out a year’s worth of plans to undo the law “piece by piece,” acknowledging that Republicans stand no chance at repealing the healthcare reform legislation before the next election.

On his agenda in 2015: bills to repeal the employer mandate and the medical device tax and reinstate the 40-hour workweek.

“With President Obama in the White House, we’ll never get a full repeal enacted into law,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean we should do nothing.”

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He also said he would be open to weakening pieces of ObamaCare through a special procedural process known as budget reconciliation, which is the GOP's only way to avoid a filibuster as the party falls short of 60 votes in the Senate.

“My preference is to work toward bipartisan solutions, however, we should not, and cannot, take any tool off the table,” he said.

Hard-line conservatives, such as Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSunday shows preview: Lawmakers gear up for Senate impeachment trial Senate GOP mulls speeding up Trump impeachment trial The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial MORE (R-Texas), have said the Senate GOP should not hesitate to use special steps to attempt a repeal, while others have said budget reconciliation should be reserved for less divisive issues like tax reform.

Hatch vowed that ObamaCare would be a top priority in 2015 because it is “hanging over every discussion we have” about the economy and job growth. The committee’s first bill will be House-passed legislation to exempt veterans from an ObamaCare provision, he said.

With just months until the highly anticipated Supreme Court case on ObamaCare subsidies, Hatch said he would press forward on his own alternative to the law, called the Patient CARE Act.

Hatch said the Supreme Court case, King v. Burwell, raised the stakes for an ObamaCare backup plan and that it was ”important that Republicans begin to unite” an idea.

“It’s not enough for the committee and the entire Congress to simply send messages. We need to work toward positive solutions on our own,” he said.

His comments offered an indirect criticism of the rift within the GOP on ObamaCare.

While some, including Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterThe biggest political upsets of the decade Red-state governor races put both parties on edge Louisiana Republicans score big legislative wins MORE (R-La.), maintain that a full repeal is “still a real possibility,” influential senators like Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHawley expects McConnell's final impeachment resolution to give White House defense ability to motion to dismiss Democrats file brief against Trump, 'the Framers' worst nightmare' Iran resolution supporters fear impeachment will put it on back burner MORE (R-Ky.) are looking for ways to prove that the party is making progress ahead of 2016.  

Hatch said the committee would also stress accountability from the massive government agencies charged with overseeing the nation’s healthcare system.

One example, he said, is the costly state exchanges under ObamaCare that received a windfall of federal dollars but did not all work properly.

“Most people don’t know this, but the administration spent nearly $1 million on state exchanges that were never implemented,” Hatch said.

“We need to know what happened and whether that money will ever be paid back.”