GOP leader: Leaked ObamaCare replacement ‘no longer’ viable

Greg Nash

A day after House conservatives panned a leaked GOP draft ObamaCare replacement plan, a top Republican leader on Tuesday described the proposed legislation as “no longer even a viable draft that we’re working off of.”

Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), the No. 3 House Republican and chief vote-counter, told reporters he had just spoken to Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker (R-N.C.), who issued a statement Monday saying he could not vote for the leaked draft or recommend his 170 members support it because of its use of refundable tax credits.

Another influential conservative leader, Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), came out against the draft plan earlier in the day.

“What [Walker] said was, of the draft he saw — which is no longer even a viable draft that we’re working off of — that he had issues with components of that draft,” said Scalise, himself a former chairman of the Republican Study Committee (RSC).

{mosads}“That draft is not even representative of where we are,” he continued. “He’s working with us and we’re in direct conversations with the chairman of the RSC as well as others about the best way to build a consensus to pass a bill to gut ObamaCare.”

“So we should ignore that draft?” asked a reporter from The Hill.

“Well, that draft is no longer valid. There hasn’t been a bill filed yet,” Scalise replied.

After that exchange, Scalise spokesman Chris Bond clarified that his boss was trying to say that the draft bill is not current.

“The Whip was referring to the fact that the draft in question is an older draft,” Bond said in an email.

Asked on a call with reporters if he is worried the tough stance from conservatives is jeopardizing the repeal effort, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said, “not at all.”

“We actually think you should do what you said you would do,” he added, referring to repealing as much of ObamaCare as possible following the 2015 repeal bill. 

Meadows further hit the draft GOP plan for creating “a new entitlement program” through its refundable tax credits. 

The conservative objections to refundable tax credits pose a major problem for GOP leadership, as those credits are a central aspect of the plan intended to help people afford coverage.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) downplayed the Republican divisions on repealing and replacing ObamaCare, saying they will be unified once the plan is finalized. 

“I feel at the end of the day when we get everything done and right, we’re going to be unified on this,” Ryan said at a press conference Tuesday. 

“I think you’re going to have a lot of churning on legislation like this. This is a plan we’re all working on together — the House, the Senate, the White House, so there aren’t rival plans here.” 

Ryan added that the plan “looks a lot like” the one one former Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), now the Secretary of Health and Human Services, drafted in 2015. 

Scalise predicted that at the end of the day, Republicans would rally around the final repeal and replacement legislation and pass it.

“We will keep working with our members until we finally pass the bill,” the majority whip said. “We will pass the bill.”

Updated 1:22 p.m. 

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