GOP charges ahead with ObamaCare repeal


Republicans are pushing forward with their plans to repeal and replace ­ObamaCare despite sharp divisions that were not closed by President Trump’s address to Congress on Tuesday night.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is planning to mark up ­repeal-and-replace legislation next week, Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), a member of the panel, said Wednesday.

However, that action comes as a path forward for legislation in the House remains unclear.

The divisions have left House Republicans facing a steep climb to win the votes necessary to push a plan through the chamber. And in the Senate, where the 52 GOP members make up only a small majority, it could be even tougher.

Two House chairmen, Reps. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Kevin Brady (R-Texas), presented their plan to GOP senators at a meeting Wednesday afternoon as part of an effort to get the chambers on the same page.  

The splits were apparent in how Republicans reacted to Trump, who laid out a few broad outlines on healthcare in his speech.

Different factions in the congressional GOP simply seized on different aspects of the speech to support their previous positions.

House Republican leadership cited Trump’s endorsement of a tax credit to help people purchase insurance, saying it meant the president was on the same page.

But conservative House Freedom Caucus members, who see the tax credit as a new entitlement, countered that Trump did not say that the tax credit would be refundable and advanceable, which are the elements they object to.

Leaving a meeting in Ryan’s office Wednesday morning, conservative Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said “of course” when asked if he still had concerns about the tax credits leadership is proposing.

He also said he wants to ensure that Medicaid expansion is repealed and that there is not a “tax increase,” a reference to a proposal in the GOP plan to start taxing some of the more generous employer-sponsored health insurance plans as a way to raise revenue.

Some centrist Senate Republicans, meanwhile, want to protect ­ObamaCare’s expansion of Medicaid in their states. Repealing the expansion would jeopardize coverage for 11 million people who have gained it.

“I’m very concerned about [a proposal] that would repeal Medicaid expansion,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said Wednesday. “I don’t think we’re going to go that direction. I hope not, in the House or here, but that would be a major source of concern for me.”

Asked if she is concerned about the House plan, which would repeal the extra federal money for Medicaid expansion, Capito said, “Yeah, I mean we need the extra federal money.”

Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) also have concerns about repealing the Medicaid expansion. Three of them voting no would be enough to sink a bill in the Senate.

But conservative senators, who demand that the Medicaid expansion be repealed, also have enough votes to sink a bill. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) say that Republicans must vote again on the sweeping repeal bill passed in 2015, which did away with the Medicaid expansion.

Paul also slammed the House GOP leadership plan for a refundable tax credit, saying that he could not vote for a bill that included it.

“I don’t think we need a new entitlement program,” he said. “I think it’s a Democrat idea dressed up in Republican clothing. And I think that it’s a deal killer.”

“I think the House Freedom Caucus is saying the same thing; so are several other conservatives in the Senate,” Paul added.

At the Senate meeting Wednesday, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said there were many questions for Walden and Brady, but they were mostly “technical” in nature.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said the plan the House chairmen presented was “close to” a leaked draft from Feb. 10, but had some differences that he did not specify.

It is unclear when the legislation will be final.

“People needed to hear what the House was thinking … and it’s not a finished product,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).

In the House, Collins said members of the Energy and Commerce Committee would be getting a draft bill Thursday to provide feedback on ahead of next week’s markup.

However, he added that the committee vote is likely to occur before the Congressional Budget Office finishes its analysis of the bill. That means estimates on the bill’s cost and how many people could lose coverage would not be available at the time of the committee vote.

Updated at 8:18 p.m.

Tags Bob Corker Dean Heller John Cornyn Kevin Brady Lisa Murkowski Mike Lee Rand Paul Rob Portman Shelley Moore Capito Ted Cruz

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