President Obama will urge congressional Democrats to stand fast against any GOP effort to repeal ObamaCare during a rare visit to Capitol Hill on Wednesday morning.
Obama, just weeks before he leaves office, will meet with Democrats from both chambers to rally the troops as he seeks to find ways to save his biggest domestic achievement.
Democrats will face a tall order in saving the Affordable Care Act given that Republicans, who for years have promised to repeal the law, will on Jan. 20 control both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Yet the GOP itself faces political hurdles in ending ObamaCare as Democrats seek to target the party for taking away healthcare coverage for millions of Americans.
Vice President-elect Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceBiden, Trump tied in potential 2024 match-up: poll Nearly 80 percent of Republicans want to see Trump run in 2024: poll Why is Trump undermining his administration's historic China policies? MORE will meet with House and Senate Republicans in separate meetings on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
Pence and Obama’s dueling meetings set the stage for what might be the biggest political and policy battle of President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump announces new social media network called 'TRUTH Social' Virginia State Police investigating death threat against McAuliffe Meadows hires former deputy AG to represent him in Jan. 6 probe: report MORE’s first 100 days in office.
Trump has vowed to repeal ObamaCare, while keeping its most popular provisions.
Obama and his allies will highlight the dilemma Republicans face in repealing a program that provides health insurance to an estimated 20 million people who don’t get coverage from their employers or struggle to afford insurance.
Republicans have said it could take years to develop and pass a replacement program, an approach Obama is “deeply concerned” about, according to White House press secretary Josh Earnest.
“He’s also concerned about this Republican tactic of repeal-and-delay that ultimately is nothing more than just bait-and-switch,” he said.
Leaving the future of the program in a state of limbo is “not a responsible way to govern and it’s certainly not an indication you’re looking out for the working people of this country,” Earnest said.
Republicans are moving ahead quickly with their plans.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziCheney on same-sex marriage opposition: 'I was wrong' What Republicans should demand in exchange for raising the debt ceiling Senate votes to end debate on T infrastructure bill MORE (R-Wyo.) on Tuesday introduced a budget resolution that is the first step to repealing ObamaCare. That budget sets in motion a special process called reconciliation, which allows repeal to pass with just 50 votes in the Senate, rather than the usual 60, meaning Republicans do not need Democratic votes.
The budget instructs congressional committees to come up with a repeal bill by Jan. 27, underscoring the fast timetable for Republicans.
Still, Republicans have many major decisions still to be made. They have to decide how long they should delay repeal going into effect. Some leaders have floated a three- or even four-year delay, but House conservatives want the timeline to move faster, with no longer than a two-year delay that would not push the issue past the midterm elections.
And Republicans have still not come up with a detailed replacement plan. The delayed repeal strategy would buy them time to work on the replacement, but some Republicans want a replacement to happen at the same time as repeal. Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulVaccine 'resisters' are a real problem Democrats fret as longshot candidates pull money, attention Journalist Dave Levinthal discusses 'uptick' in congressional stock trade violations MORE (R-Ky.) this week was the latest Republican to call for simultaneous repeal and replace.
A plurality of Americans have an unfavorable view of the healthcare law, according to the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll.
But Obama will urge Democrats to focus on popular elements of the law, including a provision that prevents insurers from rejecting people with pre-existing conditions.
He plans to point out that a full repeal “ultimately is going to interfere with the ability to ensure that insurance companies sign everybody up,” Earnest said.
The president will also argue that Medicare could be put in danger by repealing the law, which extended the life of the program’s trust fund for another 13 years.
“If Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act, they’ll be hastening the demise of Medicare that millions of seniors rely upon for their basic healthcare needs,” the spokesman said.
ObamaCare was paid for by cutting Medicare payments to doctors and increasing taxes. Those cuts and taxes also help improve Medicare's long-term financial situation, so repealing ObamaCare is projected to hasten the insolvency of Medicare's trust fund.
Obama plans to take his case to the public later this week during a live-streamed interview with the liberal news website Vox.
Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, are making their own push, organizing rallies against repeal around the country for Jan. 15.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) told reporters Monday that it will be hard for Republicans to take health coverage away from people who have gained it under the law.
“There’s no question that people react more from fear of what might be taken away then they do for something that is a prospect of a good thing coming their way,” Pelosi said.
Still, she acknowledged that Democrats could have done a better job on messaging around the law over the years.
“I would say that if there is one thing I would’ve done differently about the Affordable Care Act right from the start, [it] was to message it in a much stronger way, to recognize the poisoning of the well that the Republicans were doing,” Pelosi said.
On the Republican side, Pence has emerged as a key liaison with congressional Republicans.
“When Mike Pence comes back to the conference, people get very excited because he was the conference chair, a lot of members had served with him,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters Tuesday. “I think you're going to find this vice president very active in the House and the Senate.”