GOP looks for ObamaCare path as right lashes out

Republicans are looking for a path forward on ObamaCare amid conservative opposition to key elements of their plan.  

The leaders of the two top conservative groups in the House, Reps. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), on Monday said they could not support a leaked draft GOP plan because it featured tax credits to help people buy coverage, which they warn is creating a new entitlement.

The two groups have enough votes to sink a bill, meaning their opposition would doom legislation.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) on Tuesday distanced GOP leaders from the leaked legislation.

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“That draft is not even representative of where we are,” Scalise said.

He added that leadership has been in “direct conversations with the chairman of the [Republican Study Committee] as well as others about the best way to build a consensus to pass a bill to gut ObamaCare.”

The conservative objections to refundable tax credits pose a major problem for GOP leadership, as those credits are a central aspect of the party's plan to repeal ObamaCare but provide people with insurance coverage.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanFEC filing: No individuals donated to indicted GOP rep this cycle The Hill's Morning Report - Waiting on Mueller: Answers come on Thursday Paul Ryan joins University of Notre Dame faculty MORE (R-Wis.) defended the idea of tax credits and the House’s approach in general to reporters on Tuesday, saying it looks like a previous plan from former Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), now the secretary of Health and Human Services.

“The Price plan was considered the conservative gold standard at the time last year,” Ryan said. “Many conservatives co-sponsored that plan. That plan looks a lot like what we’re working on right now.”

Conservatives don’t appear to be buying that argument.

Meadows and two other conservatives, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulBooker, Harris have missed most Senate votes Trump vetoes measure ending US support for Saudi-led war in Yemen Bottom line MORE (R-Ky.), bashed the leadership plan in a call with reporters Tuesday.

Meadows criticized the refundable tax credits, as well as a plan to start taxing generous employer-sponsored health plans that would be used to pay for the cost of the credits.

Jordan said the opposition from conservatives was not jeopardizing the repeal effort.

“We actually think you should do what you said you would do,” he said, referring to GOP vows to repeal as much of ObamaCare as possible.

Paul and fellow conservative Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzBooker, Harris have missed most Senate votes O'Rourke sweeps through Virginia looking to energize campaign Disney to donate million to rebuild Notre Dame MORE (R-Texas) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeDems sound alarm over top DOJ nominee Restore Pell Grant eligibility to people in prison Former Democratic aide pleads guilty to doxing GOP senators attending Kavanaugh hearing MORE (R-Utah) said Monday that they will vote against a repeal bill that preserves more of the law than a far-reaching bill from 2015.

Those three have enough votes to defeat a measure in the Senate, but their demands, if met, could cost a Senate bill the support of centrist Republicans.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now? Overnight Health Care: McConnell offering bill to raise tobacco-buying age to 21 | NC gov vetoes 'born alive' abortion bill | CMS backs off controversial abortion proposal HR 1 brings successful local, state reforms to the federal level and deserves passage MORE (R-Ky.) acknowledged Tuesday that congressional Republicans and President Trump need to get in sync on their ObamaCare strategy — but they aren't there yet.

“The goal is for the administration, the House and the Senate to be in the same place. We're not there yet,” he told reporters.

Meadows said he had not spoken to leadership this week about his ObamaCare concerns.

“I've had ongoing conversations with leadership over the last couple of months,” he said. “I don't see any real movement in terms of their position on tax credits.” 

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.”

— Jessie Hellmann contributed.