GOP waiting to hear from Trump on ObamaCare

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Don’t expect President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans to roll out their ObamaCare replacement plan next week at their joint House and Senate GOP retreat in Philadelphia.

Healthcare is expected to dominate the three-day gathering that kicks off Wednesday. But GOP lawmakers attending Trump’s presidential inauguration Friday said they likely won’t settle on a complete replacement strategy by the time the retreat wraps up. 

Trump recently said he’d pitch his own plan to replace President Obama’s healthcare law that includes “insurance for everybody.” And Republicans on Capitol Hill said they want to hear directly from Trump and Vice President Pence before they move forward.

“I don’t think so,” Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), a senior member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, replied when asked if Republicans would finalize their replacement plan in Philadelphia.

“It’s critically important to find out what the president is prepared to do. He has said he’s working on a plan that is going to come out when [Health and Human Services nominee Tom Price] is put in place. I just think we don’t want to get ahead of him.”


The Senate Finance Committee won’t hold its confirmation hearing for Price until Tuesday. And it’s unclear when exactly the full Senate would vote to confirm the GOP congressman from Georgia as HHS secretary.

As they left Trump’s inauguration ceremony at the Capitol, Republicans said they did anticipate a vigorous discussion and debate over how the GOP should move forward on repealing and replacing ObamaCare.

Part of that discussion, Tiberi said, would be an “education” so members better understand technical aspects of budget reconciliation — the process Republicans are using to repeal Obama’s law and replace certain aspects of it. 

Some Republicans said they expected Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to sketch out a “skeletal framework” for how the GOP will tackle repeal and replacement. Ryan has already said some elements of replacing ObamaCare will be taken care of in the reconciliation process, while others will be handled on a step-by-step basis with smaller pieces of legislation.

But during news conferences and media interviews, Ryan’s revealed few details.

GOP leaders also could offer pointers at the retreat on how rank-and-file lawmakers can better message the issue and talk to constituents anxious about changes to their health coverage. 

“It’s going to be a good opportunity for House and Senate Republicans to talk about our shared goals, how we achieve them, the timetables, the ideas,” Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) told The Hill. “While most of those ideas are fully developed, there are some areas where we still need to find common ground. So this will be a perfect opportunity to do that.” 

Brady is among a handful of House Republicans who’ve been targeted by protesters and constituents angry about the GOP’s push to fulfill their campaign pledge and gut ObamaCare.

Brady had a testy exchange with a woman who shouted, “Don’t lie!” during a town hall this week at a local chamber of commerce. Others who’ve had well-publicized run-ins with protesters in the past week include GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.).

One House Republican told The Hill it would have been easier for lawmakers to defend ObamaCare repeal to constituents if party leaders already had put forth a replacement plan.

Another GOP lawmaker said repeal and replace involves extremely “complex issues” and agreed that that Republicans need an easy way to explain to constituents the party’s overarching healthcare strategy.

“I have many people in my district who have healthcare now because of Medicaid expansion or subsidies. So I think they need to realize repeal doesn’t mean taking healthcare away and that there is no option for you to get any,” said Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), who represents a swing district.

“The point is there is a better way for us to get healthcare for individuals who didn’t have it and also to bring the cost of healthcare down that also doesn’t increase taxes by a trillion dollars,” she continued.

“It’s a different model to get to the same result.”

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) said the Philadelphia retreat should bring the GOP’s ObamaCare strategy into better focus. But he also wants to get more input from people back in his Miami-area district. 

“I hope we reach a bit more of a consensus on the timeline and the process,” Diaz-Balart said. “We’ve got a million bills here. We’ve got [healthcare] bills we’ve worked on for years, but I think it would be a little arrogance on our part to just assume that we know everything.

“We need to consult with the American people.”

Tags Cathy McMorris Rodgers Donald Trump Kevin Brady Paul Ryan

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